* Sun letter to the editor new salvo in diplomatic battle
* Britain retained the islands 1982 Falklands War
* Oil exploration raises stakes in sovereignty row
By Hugh Bronstein and Estelle Shirbon
BUENOS AIRES/LONDON, Jan 4 Britain's
biggest-selling newspaper had a simple message for Argentina in
an editorial published on Friday in the South American country:
"HANDS OFF" the Falkland Islands.
The seven-paragraph epistle, penned by the populist Sun
tabloid and published in Argentina's main English language
newspaper, came in response to fresh demands from President
Cristina Fernandez to open talks over the sovereignty of the
South Atlantic archipelago.
The two countries fought a 10-week war in 1982 over the
remote islands, which are part of Britain's self-governing
overseas territories and are known in Argentina as Las Malvinas.
Britain won the war but Argentina started pressing its
sovereignty claim anew last year after oil exploration began in
waters near the islands.
"British sovereignty over the Falkland Islands dates back to
1765, before the Republic of Argentina even existed," the Sun
said in its open letter to Fernandez, published in both Spanish
and English in the Buenos Aires Herald.
"In the name of our millions of readers," the Sun said,
The Sun, part of media mogul Rupert Murdoch's empire, has a
long history of publishing fervently patriotic articles. One of
its front pages during the 1982 war it marked the news that
British forces had sunk the Argentine warship General Belgrano
with the banner headline "GOTCHA."
As the extent of Argentine losses began to emerge, the Sun
changed its headline in later editions. A total of 323
Argentines lost their lives in the attack on the Belgrano.
While the rhetoric has yet to reach such levels, tensions
have flared between London and Buenos Aires against the new
backdrop of oil prospects.
Crude was found to the north of the Falklands in 2010 by
Rockhopper Exploration, drawing interest from hedge
funds and other investors despite threats from Argentina to
disrupt the activity.
In an open letter from Fernandez to Prime Minister David
Cameron published in British newspapers on Thursday, the fiery
two-term Peronist leader accused Britain of breaching United
Nations resolutions calling for a negotiated solution.
Cameron rejects negotiations, saying the approximately 3,000
people of the Falkland Islands have chosen to be British.
In its Friday edition, the Sun used less moderate language
for its own British readers than in its open letter to
Fernandez, labeling her country a "banana republic."
"Stirring up trouble over the Falklands creates a convenient
sideshow for Argentina's tin-pot leaders as they battle problems
at home," the Sun said in its editorial, referring to economic
woes in Argentina punctuated by slow growth and high inflation.
"But they are wasting their breath. And they should remember
what happened last time."