Brazil plays down British flights to Falklands that worry Argentina

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BRASILIA, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Brazil on Tuesday defended its decision to allow British military planes flying to the Falklands Islands to stop at Brazilian airports, landings that annoyed Argentina.

The Brazilian Foreign Ministry said in a note to Reuters that while it backed Argentina's sovereignty claims over the islands, that support does no affect its "important partnership" with Britain.

Argentina's ambassador to Brazil, Daniel Scioli, last week complained over the increase in flights stopping in Brazil on their way to the Falklands Islands, which Argentina calls the Malvinas.

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Scioli said there had been seven Royal Air Force flights in January that had landed at Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Porto Alegre.

"The Brazilian position of authorizing the overflight and landing of British military aircraft on the Falklands route is guided by the principle of not contributing to the modernization and expansion of the United Kingdom's military resources and war potential in that archipelago," the Brazilian ministry said.

The note said Brazil authorized the landing and docking of British planes and vessels on their way to the Falklands when the requests involved emergency situations, search and rescue missions, or health and humanitarian reasons.

The Brazilian foreign ministry said the number of overflight and landing authorizations granted to British military aircraft varied from year to year, ranging from 150 some years to just 1 in others.

The British government dismissed the Argentine concerns saying they were routine flights and any claims of militarization were wholly false.

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Reporting by Anthony Boadle; editing by Grant McCool

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