British firm drills for oil in Falkland Islands waters
A British rig started drilling for oil Monday territorial waters off the Falklands Islands in the South Atlantic, despite the prospect of an escalating diplomatic row with Argentina, dpa reported.
Desire Petroleum, the company contracted for the exploration, confirmed Monday that operations had started on a platform towed to a point some 100 kilometres north of the Falklands.
Argentina, which fought and lost a 1982 war with Britain over the islands, has warned that the drilling violates its sovereignty, and Buenos Aires has started to impose shipping restrictions around its shores.
"Drilling operations are expected to take approximately 30 days, and a further announcement will be made once drilling is completed," Desire Petroleum said in a statement to the London Stock Exchange.
"Desire is an oil company, and it's exploring for oil and not getting involved in what Argentina is saying. ... The rig is sitting firmly in UK waters."
Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner on Monday emphasized Argentina's sovereignty over the archipelago, which it calls the Malvinas, off the coast of Patagonia.
Bill Rammell, a junior defence minister, said that the Falklands have a "legitimate right" to develop an oil industry within territorial waters.
"We do, we have, and we will take whatever steps are necessary to protect the Falkland Islands and our counterparts in Argentina are aware of that," he said in London, reiterating an earlier pledge by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
Some estimates put the Falklands oil deposits at 60 billion barrels.
Fernandez de Kirchner, attending a Latin American summit in Cancun, Mexico, denounced that powers with permanent seats in the United Nations Security Council - including Britain - "continue to use that place of privilege to disregard international law."
"This can be used as an example of a 21st century in which the dispute for natural resources is set to be the great international playing field," she said.
The Falklands have been held by Britain since 1833. The seizure of the islands by Argentina's military dictatorship led to a war in which 649 Argentines and 255 Britons died as British forces retook the Falklands.