* Argentina vows legal action vs Falklands oil explorers
* UK will work with companies to lessen impact of measures
* Tensions rising before 30th anniversary of war
By Adrian Croft
LONDON, March 16 Britain accused Argentina
of illegal attempts to intimidate Falkland islanders on Friday
after Buenos Aires said it would take legal action against any
companies involved in oil exploration off the disputed South
Tensions between Britain and Argentina are rising as the
30th anniversary approaches of Argentina's invasion of the
Falklands that was repulsed by a British task force after a
10-week conflict that killed 650 Argentine and 255 British
The discovery of oil off the islands, which analysts
estimate could bring in up to $167 billion in taxes and
royalties in the best case scenario, has raised the stakes.
Argentina said on Thursday it would take legal action
against any company involved in oil exploration off the islands
it calls the Malvinas, in a drive to pressure Britain into
A spokeswoman for Prime Minister David Cameron called the
Argentine move "regrettable" and the foreign ministry said the
Falklands were entitled to develop oil resources without
"From harassing Falklands shipping to threatening the
islanders' air links with Chile, Argentina's efforts to
intimidate the Falklands are illegal, unbecoming and wholly
counter-productive," a Foreign Office spokeswoman said.
The Foreign Office would work with any company affected to
limit the impact of Argentine legal steps, she said.
London has refused to start talks on sovereignty over the
Falklands unless the 3,000 islanders call for them, which they
show no signs of doing.
British explorer Rockhopper, which discovered the
Sea Lion field north of the islands in 2010, has been seeking a
partner to invest in the $2 billion project.
Borders & Southern and Falkland Oil & Gas
are set to drill wells south of the islands this year.
An industry source in London said on Thursday legal action
against companies involved in Falklands oil exploration "will
have no impact on Rockhopper's operations."
Argentina says exploration and drilling are illegal since
the area is contested. It did not make clear what kind of
judicial action it had in mind.
Britain says recent Argentine moves are an attempt to impose
an economic blockade on the remote islands.
In December, South American trading bloc Mercosur agreed
that ships sailing under a Falklands' flag would be banned from
docking at any of its ports in solidarity with Argentina.
This month, Argentina said it wanted to renegotiate a 1999
accord with Britain that allows a weekly flight by Chilean
airline Lan to the islands, proposing instead that
state-run Aerolineas Argentinas fly there.
British government officials see this as an attempt to cut
the islanders' existing air link to Chile.
Argentina complained to the United Nations in February over
what it called Britain's "militarisation" of the South Atlantic
after London announced plans to dispatch a Navy destroyer to the
area and it criticised the posting of Prince William -
second-in-line to the British throne - to the islands as a
military search-and-rescue pilot.