* Ban asked to tell Britain to stop "unilateral acts"
* British envoy says oil drilling quite legal
By Patrick Worsnip
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 24 Argentina asked the
United Nations on Wednesday to step into its dispute with
Britain over the Falkland Islands but U.N. officials said
mediation would need the agreement of London.
Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana put the request to
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon two days after the
long-running dispute erupted again when a British company began
oil exploration off the South Atlantic islands, which Argentina
calls the Malvinas.
Argentina, which has claimed the islands since Britain
established its rule in the 19th century, invaded them in 1982.
After a two-month war, it was forced to withdraw, but still
claims the archipelago and says oil drilling by Britain's
Desire Petroleum DES.L is a breach of sovereignty.
"We asked the secretary-general, in the exercise of his
good offices, to transmit to the United Kingdom the need not to
commit any more unilateral acts," Taiana told reporters after
He said Britain should also comply with U.N. resolutions on
"the need to sit down and negotiate with Argentina on the
Britain has rejected Argentine objections to the oil
exploration, saying the drilling is within international law.
"British sovereignty in respect of the Falklands is
absolutely clear in international law," Foreign Secretary David
Miliband said on Tuesday.
A U.N. General Assembly resolution entrusted the
secretary-general months after the Falklands war with a "good
offices" mission to try to resolve the sovereignty dispute.
A U.N. spokesman, Ari Gaitanis, said Ban "took note of
Argentina's concerns" at the meeting with Taiana and welcomed
Buenos Aires' commitment to resolve the dispute peacefully.
He did not say whether Ban would pass on Taiana's message
to Britain but said the U.N. chief "reiterated that his good
offices are available when requested by all parties in a
The phrase appeared to be a discreet recognition that
Britain does not acknowledge that a sovereignty dispute exists
and sees no case for mediation.
Referring to the specific issue of the oil exploration,
however, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said last week
that "sensible discussions will prevail on this."
Reaffirming the British position after Taiana's meeting
with Ban, Britain's U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said his
country "has no doubt about its sovereignty over the Falkland
Islands ... This position is underpinned by the principle of
self-determination as set out in the U.N. Charter."
"We are also clear that the Falkland Islands government is
entitled to develop a hydrocarbons industry within its waters,
and we support this legitimate business in Falklands'
territory," Lyall Grant said in a statement.
Argentina has formally objected to the oil drilling near
the islands and said it will require all ships from the
Falklands to obtain permits to dock in Argentina.
The "Rio Group" of Latin American leaders, meeting this
week in Mexico, issued a statement on Tuesday supporting
Argentina's demands to halt drilling around the Falklands.
The Falklands are not an onshore oil producer and have no
proven onshore reserves, but oil companies are betting that
offshore fields hold billions of recoverable barrels of oil.
(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)