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Diplomacy

Falkland Islanders to vote in referendum on future

Residents of the Falkland Islands are set to vote in a referendum on whether they wish to remain a UK territory. The move comes amid renewed tensions over Argentina’s claim to the islands.

The wording of the question to be put to the voters in the March 10-11 referendum is meant to send a clear signal about the islanders' will regarding their political future:

"Do you wish the Falkland Islands to retain their current political status as an overseas territory of the United Kingdom?"

Voters will be given the choice between "yes" and "no," according to a Falkland Islands' government statement, which linked the timing of the referendum to a flare-up in tensions between Buenos Aires and London.

"Given that Argentina is calling for negotiations over the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands, this referendum is being undertaken to consult the people regarding their views on the political status of the Falkland Islands," the statement read.

"The result will demonstrate in a clear, democratic and incontestable way how the people of the Falkland Islands wish to live their lives," according to the statement.

The government also announced that a team of independent international observers would monitor the referendum to ensure fairness. In what the government views as the unlikely case that voters reject UK rule, a second referendum on possible alternatives would be organized.

The Argentine government claims sovereignty over the Falklands despite the fact that the United Kingdom has controlled them since 1833. A 1982 attempt by Buenos Aires to seize the Islands by force ultimately failed - resulting in a 74-day war that claimed the lives of 649 Argentine soldiers and 255 UK troops.

The United Kingdom currently has about 1,000 soldiers on the islands to ensure the security of approximately 3,000 residents.

pfd/mkg (AFP, AP)