- The Washington Times - Monday, March 1, 2010

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay — U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Monday offered to help Argentina and Great Britain resolve a festering dispute over a vast swath of the southern Atlantic Ocean where Britain has begun drilling for oil.

Speaking in Uruguay ahead of a hastily scheduled visit to Argentina, Mrs. Clinton said the two countries should agree themselves over the sovereignty of the British-administered Falkland Islands, where the two nations fought a brief war in 1982.

Mrs. Clinton said the United States is willing to be a go-between, although she did not specify how such mediation or other help might come about. The islands are claimed by Argentina, which refers to them as Las Malvinas.

RELATED STORY: Clinton meets Uruguay’s new president

“It is our position that this is a matter to be resolved between the United Kingdom and Argentina,” she told reporters after meeting Uruguay’s new president. “If we can be of any help in facilitating such an effort, we stand ready to do that.”

Mrs. Clinton’s comments came during the first stop of a six-nation tour of Latin America that originally included Uruguay, quake-devastated Chile, Brazil, Costa Rica and Guatemala.

Argentina was a last-minute addition to the itinerary because the situation in Chile prevented her from spending Monday night in Santiago.

Mrs. Clinton had planned to see Argentine President Cristina Fernandez in Montevideo, where they both are attending the inauguration of new Uruguayan President Jose Mujica. There had been grumbling in Argentina that Mrs. Clinton’s failure to visit Buenos Aires was a snub.

Now, Mrs. Clinton will spend Monday night in Buenos Aires before continuing on to Chile for short stop Tuesday.

Argentina last week asked the head of the United Nations to help resolve the long-running dispute over the Falklands. The U.N. General Assembly called for Argentina and Britain to negotiate sovereignty over the islands following the war, which Britain won. Britain has ruled out any concessions involving the islands, which its people have occupied since the early 1800s.

Argentina says the islands are part of its territory and that the islands’ residents, who strongly favor retaining ties to Britain, do not have the unilateral right to decide what they want the islands to be.

U.S. officials have been relatively silent on the matter since the dispute resurfaced several weeks ago, insisting that Washington remains neutral on the question of sovereignty but does recognize the current British administration of the islands.

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