June 12, 2012 / 2:24 PM / 5 years ago

Falklands to hold referendum on status next year

LONDON (Reuters) - The government of the Falklands said on Tuesday it would hold a referendum next year to “eliminate any possible doubt” about the islanders’ wishes to remain British in the face of Argentina’s sovereignty claims.

British Foreign and Commonwealth Minister of State Jeremy Browne (L), Gavin Short, Chairman of the Falkland Islands Legislative Assembly (C) and Falklands Islands Governor Nigel Haywood, pose after a meeting at the Town Hall in Stanley, Falkland Islands June 12, 2012. REUTERS/Enrique Marcarian

Britain and Argentina in 1982 went to war over the South Atlantic islands, and 30 years later tensions have escalated between the two nations.

“I have no doubt that the people of the Falklands wish for the islands to remain a self-governing Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom,” said Gavin Short, chairman of the Falklands Legislative Assembly.

“So we have decided, with the full support of the British Government, to hold a referendum on the Falkland Islands to eliminate any possible doubt about our wishes,” he added in a statement.

The vote is expected to take place in the first half of 2013.

Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez has launched a wide-ranging diplomatic offensive to assert her country’s claims to the islands, known in Spanish as Las Malvinas. She accuses Britain of maintaining “colonial enclaves” and has called on London to open sovereignty talks.

The British government has consistently refused to discuss sovereignty so long as the 3,000 islanders want to stay British.

Prime Minister David Cameron said in a statement on Tuesday that it was “absolutely right that the islanders have today set out how they intend to make their voices heard once more”.

Reporting by Stephen Addison; Editing by Alessandra Rizzo

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