Keep religion out of Falklands dispute: envoys

Does religion and politics mix? Not in the case of the Falkland Islands dispute between Britain and Argentina, top officials from the British side said Thursday.

Argentina's President Cristina Kirchner this year asked Pope Francis, who is from her country, to mediate in the dispute which led to war between the two in 1982.

But a top Falklands politician and Britain's UN envoy shrugged off the idea when asked about such mediation on the sidelines of an annual UN debate on the islands.

"The last thing we need is religion inserted in this," Michael Summers, a veteran Falklands legislator who lobbied the UN decolonization committee for the islands government, told reporters.

"I certainly share the view that religion is unlikely to help solve this," added Britain's UN ambassador Mark Lyall Grant.

Even Argentina's Foreign Minister Hector Timerman did not explicitly embrace Vatican intervention though he said popes have "intervened in the past in several issues related to politics and geopolitics." He referred however to 1493 decrees by Pope Alexander VI that granted Spain the right to the lands of the Americas.

The UN decolonization committee voted an annual resolution which called for a negotiated settlement to the dispute. But the meeting brought the two sides no closer together.

Timerman decried as British "propaganda" a referendum held in the Falklands in March in which islanders voted by 99.8% to remain British.

Summers called Argentina "the aspiring colonial power" and again said the decolonization committee should to visit the Falklands.

Argentina says the dispute is a sovereignty conflict that can only be settled by London and Buenos Aires. The British government says it will not discuss the islands' future without the approval of its inhabitants.