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Falklands row 'risks foreign ties'

British relations in South America could falter if the UK Government refuses to hand over the Falkland Islands to Argentina, the country's ambassador to London has said.

Alicia Castro tried to pull Argentina's immediate neighbours into the dispute, claiming UK diplomatic and business relations could be damaged if the islands were not handed over to Buenos Aires.

She said Las Malvinas - Argentina's name for the Falklands - would be better off if they cut their ties with the UK.

Describing the islands as a "colonial enclave", she said her government would send teachers to the islands to teach Spanish, while it also wanted to re-establish direct flights between the Falklands and the mainland.

She told Dermot Murnaghan on Sky News that Argentina "did not want to change the way of life" on the Falklands, insisting the islands had to be "given back to Latin America as a whole".

And she claimed an advert depicting an Argentina athlete using a war memorial on the islands to do step-ups was not designed to upset relations between the UK and the South American country.

Ms Castro said: "Is it rational that a small community, in the name of very particular wishes and interests, are against any dialogue?

"Does it make sense that because they are not regarding the interests of the 60 million British people, they are not regarding the interests of the 30 million people in Argentina and they are not regarding their best interests, which would no doubt be better preserved if they were linked to the continent?"

In a sarcastic sideswipe at the British Government, the ambassador added: "We are very happy having this colonial enclave in the south of our country.

"It's not an Argentinian cause, it's a regional cause. The United Kingdom, by not wanting to have a proper dialogue with Argentina, it's (turning) its back on Latin America as a whole.

"If it's true that Britain wants to improve its relations with Latin America, they (the British Government) have to settle this dispute."