Falklands will be ours in 20 years:Argentina

Hector

Argentina expects to have control of the British-held Falkland Islands within 20 years, the country's foreign minister said today.

During a visit to London, Hector Timerman said in a joint interview with The Independent and The Guardian newspapers that Argentina would not take military action but that Britain would be forced to compromise soon.

"I don't think it will take another 20 years," he was quoted as saying by the newspapers.

"I think that the world is going through a process of understanding more and more that this is a colonial issue, an issue of colonialism, and that the people living there were transferred to the islands."

He added: "We don't support the occupation of foreign lands, and the Malvinas case is the occupation of a foreign land."

Britain has held the islands in the South Atlantic since 1833, but Argentine forces invaded in 1982, prompting then British prime minister Margaret Thatcher to send a naval task force to reclaim control in a brief but bloody war.

Timerman's comments come amid an escalating war of words some 40 days before Falkland Island residents go to the polls March 10-11 to say whether they want the archipelago to remain a British overseas territory.

On Thursday, Timerman refused an offer by British Foreign Secretary William Hague to meet with Falkland Islands officials during his visit, a move that Britain described as disappointing.

But Timerman said in the interview published today that Britain "has never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity to find a solution for the Malvinas".

He said Argentina would "respect the rights" of Falkland Islanders but said there was no obligation on him to discuss the issue with them directly.

"I don't have to persuade them. The United Nations says there is a conflict between the United Kingdom and Argentina," he said.

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