Crimea vote as worthless as Falklands poll: Argentina president

PARIS Wed Mar 19, 2014 12:31pm EDT

French President Francois Hollande (R) and Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner attend a joint news conference at the Elysee Palace in Paris, March 19, 2014. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

French President Francois Hollande (R) and Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner attend a joint news conference at the Elysee Palace in Paris, March 19, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

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PARIS (Reuters) - Argentine President Cristina Fernandez, who has been campaigning for the Falkland Islands to become part of Argentina, said last week's referendum in Crimea was as worthless as a vote held last year over the British territory in the South Atlantic.

Fernandez has been increasingly vocal about Argentina's claim to the archipelago, a British Overseas Territory over which Britain and Argentina fought a war in 1982.

"This referendum (in Crimea) is worthless," Fernandez said, speaking through an interpreter at a news conference with French President Francois Hollande.

"We can't simply defend the integrity of Crimea and not the Malvinas," Fernandez said. Britain says that Russia has broken international law and violated the territorial integrity of Ukraine by annexing Crimea.

Residents of the Malvinas - as the Falklands are called in Spanish - voted almost unanimously to stay under British rule in a referendum in March 2013.

Britain asserted its rule over the islands, which lie off Argentina's southern coast, in 1833 despite Argentina's claims it inherited them from the Spanish on independence and that Britain expelled an Argentine population.

"What is the value of a referendum in an overseas colony that is 14,000 km from the United Kingdom?" she said.

The Falklands War, which killed about 650 Argentines and 255 Britons and ended when Argentina surrendered, is widely remembered in Argentina as a humiliating mistake by the discredited and brutal dictatorship in power at the time.

Most Latin American countries and many other developing nations have voiced support for Argentina, which has stepped up its demands since London-listed companies started drilling for oil and natural gas off the Falklands' craggy coastline.

"We should support the integrity of all countries. At the end of the day the Malvinas have always been Argentine while Crimea belonged to the Soviet Union and was handed to the Ukrainians by (former Soviet leader Nikita) Khrushchev."

Russian's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on March 14 said Crimea meant more to Russia than the Falklands mean to Britain.

(Reporting By Elizabeth Pineau; Writing by John Irish; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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