UK Slams Argentina Over 'Illegal' Falklands Threat

LONDON - The U.K. on Thursday accused Argentina of illegally intimidating Falkland Islands residents after its foreign minister vowed legal action against oil companies operating around the territory.

Argentinian minister Hector Timerman warned "we will take the required legal, administrative, civil and criminal actions against oil companies currently involved in drilling," speaking in a Buenos Aires press conference Thursday.

The U.K.'s Foreign Office responded by calling the threats "illegal, unbecoming and wholly counterproductive."

"These latest attempts to damage the economic livelihoods of the Falkland Islands people regrettably reflect a pattern of behaviour by the Argentine government," said the statement.

"From harassing Falklands shipping to threatening the Islanders' air links with Chile, Argentina's efforts to intimidate the Falklands are illegal, unbecoming and wholly counterproductive," it added.

The ministry stressed that oil exploration around the disputed islands was a legitimate commercial venture, and that islanders were entitled to exploit any natural resources.

The U.K. vowed to work closely with any company potentially affected by Argentina's move.

The announcement escalated rising tensions over the South Atlantic islands claimed by Argentina since 1833, but held by the U.K.

Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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