Falklands fish dispute deepens

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The Independent Online
DIPLOMATIC tension between Britain and Argentina is growing after the Foreign Office confirmed today that a fishing exclusion zone around the Falkland Islands was to be extended from Monday.

Guido di Tella, the Argentine Foreign Minister, said Britain's action was in response to a fresh Argentine claim to sovereignty over the islands enshrined in the newly-amended constitution that it adopted on Thursday.

'The British realise that Argentine sovereignty claims over the islands will never disappear,' Mr di Tella said. He told journalists at briefings in southern Argentina that the extension of the exclusion zone amounted to a tit-for-tat reaction to the new constitution.

The Foreign Office in London said the extension was being made for 'conservation purposes' and did not infringe the Argentines' own 200-nautical-mile fishing zone, but a diplomat in Buenos Aires said: 'This is very likely to increase tension between the two countries.'

The argument centres on a 547-square-mile area of sea that lies between the Argentines' 200-mile limit and two conservation areas, negotiated by the British and Argentine governments in 1986 and 1990, known as the Falklands Interim Conservation Zone and the Falklands Outer Conservation Zone.

The British Government argues that it did not extend the Falklands zone to its full limits when the 1990 deal was negotiated and that is what it is doing now. Officials say that illex, a type of squid, is being over-fished by poachers and it is time to bring the area under Falklands protection.

The Foreign Office said: 'It is regrettable that the Argentine government have interpreted this measure as jurisdictional extension.'