(Corrects second paragraph to show that Britain controlled
Falklands before 1982)
By Miguel Angel Gutierrez
PLAYA DEL CARMEN Feb 22 Argentine President
Cristina Fernandez said Latin American leaders backed her
objections to oil exploration in the British-controlled
Falkland islands, as the first well began drilling on Monday.
Argentina, which has claimed the South Atlantic islands
since Britain established 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 exploration by
Britain's Desire Petroleum DES.L is a breach of sovereignty.
"There continues to be systematic violation of
international law that should be respected by all countries,"
Fernandez told the opening session of a regional summit near
the Mexican resort town of Playa del Carmen.
"In the name of our government and in the name of my people
I am grateful ... for the support this meeting has given to our
demands," Fernandez said.
Venezuelan Hugo Chavez addressed Britain's Queen Elizabeth
directly on his weekly television program telling her to return
the Falklands, known as the Malvinas in Spanish, to Argentina.
He repeated his claims late Sunday when he arrived in Mexico
for the summit.
"We support unconditionally the Argentine government and
the Argentine people in their complaints," Chavez told
reporters at the airport. "That sea and that land belongs to
Argentina and to Latin America."
Escalating the dispute, Argentina formally objected to
British-led drilling plans near South Atlantic Islands, and
said it would require all ships from the Falklands to obtain
permits to dock in Argentina.
While the Falklands are not an oil producer and have no
proven reserves, oil companies are betting offshore fields may
hold billions of recoverable barrels of oil.
Desire Petroleum said it broke ground at a well on its
offshore "Liz" prospect, which could contain up to 400 million
barrels, although there is a possibility the exploration will
(Additional reporting and writing by Mica Rosenberg; editing
by Chris Wilson)