Argentina: Falklands 'Ours In 20 Years'

Argentina will control the Falkland Islands within 20 years, the country's foreign minister has declared as he visits Britain.

Hector Timerman, in London for the first time, called the British "fanatics" as he claimed the UK was only interested in the islands because of their oil reserves.

He ruled out launching military action to end the long-standing dispute over their sovereignty but claimed Britain was internationally isolated in its claim.

His comments are the latest salvo in a 130-year-old dispute over the islands, which Argentina insists on calling the Malvinas.

"The United Kingdom has never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity to find a solution for the Malvinas," Mr Timerman said in a joint interview with The Guardian and The Independent.

"I don't think it will take another 20 years. 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.

"We have been trying to find a peaceful solution for 180 years. I think the fanatics are not in Buenos Aires (but) maybe in the United Kingdom because they are 14,000km (8,700 miles) away from the islands.

"And I think they are using the people living in the islands for political (reasons) and to have access to oil and natural resources which belong to the Argentine people. I think we are not fanatical at all."

Mr Timerman had been due to meet Foreign Secretary William Hague during his visit but he pulled out when the Foreign Office said Falklanders would also be present.

"There is not one single country in the world which supports the right of the United Kingdom to govern over the Malvinas. Not one," he said on Thursday.

"According to the United Nations, there are only two parties to the conflict - the United Kingdom and the Republic of Argentina. It is an issue that has to be resolved by Argentina and the United Kingdom.

"By introducing a third party, the United Kingdom is changing more than 40 resolutions by the United Nations, which call the two countries to negotiate."

Mr Timerman also dismissed next month's planned referendum of the islanders on whether they want to remain part of the British Overseas Territories as meaningless.

"If you ask the colonial people who came with a colonial power and replaced the people who were living in the islands, it is like asking the British citizens of the Malvinas Islands if they want to remain British," he said.

And he hit back at suggestions that the government in Buenos Aires had been agitating over the issue of the islands in an attempt to distract from economic problems at home.

"I think it is the United Kingdom that is going through an economic crisis and is becoming isolationist more than Argentina," he said.

"They want to get out of the European Union, there is a sense here (in Britain) that we want to stop the world and get out."

Mr Timerman later clashed with MPs when he appeared before the all-party group on Argentina, insisting again that Buenos Aires would not recognise the referendum.

"The self-determination referendum doesn't apply to the Malvinas. It is not a colonised people, it is a colonised territory," he said.

"It is not a matter for negotiation. Not one single country in the world recognises the sovereignty of the United Kingdom in the Malvinas.

"We have to respect the interests of the people living in the area, but not the wishes."