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Falklands oil drilling starts

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 22 February 2010

Despite Argentinian opposition, a British rig begins drilling for oil off the coast of the Falkland Islands today as the UK government reaffirms its commitment to protect the islands.

Ocean Guardian rig off Falklands Islands - Channel 4 News exclusive

The exploratory drilling went ahead in the midst of tensions between Britain and Argentina over the islands, part of a long-running dispute that led to war between both countries in 1982.

The Defence Minister Bill Rammell said Britain would take "whatever steps are necessary" to protect the islands, which the Argentinians call Las Malvinas and claim as their own.

He told the Commons: "There has been no change whatsoever to our policy and we have no doubt whatsoever about the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands, and no change in our support to their legitimate right to develop a hydrocarbon industry within its waters.

"We do, we have, and we will take whatever steps are necessary to protect the Falkland Islands and our counterparts in Argentina are aware of that."

Desire Petroleum's platform, Ocean Guardian, has been towed 8,000 miles from Scotland to the south Atlantic for the exploration.

Drilling is expected to last 30 days, with estimates of 3.5 billion barrels of recoverable oil and nine trillion cubic feet of gas.

Buenos Aires has tightened shipping restrictions in the region, insisting that all ships travelling between Argentina and the Falklands need the permission of the Argentinian government.

Its President Cristina Fernandez said today that Latin American leaders backed her objections to oil exploration in the Falkland islands.

"There continues to be systematic violation of international law that should be respected by all countries," Ms Fernandez said.

Despite the tougher restrictions on shipping, a British cruise ship that had left Argentina docked at Port Stanley in the Falklands today.

Many of the 2,800 passengers on the Star Princess are British, and the test of Argentina's position will come when it returns to the country on Wednesday.

Last week, the Argentinians stopped another ship, the Danish-owned Thor Leader, from leaving the port of Campana - saying they suspected it was destined for the Falklands.

The company operating the vessel denied this.

 

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