Britain and Argentina were on Thursday embroiled in a fresh war of words over the Falkland Islands after Argentinean President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner wrote an open letter to Prime Minister David Cameron demanding the return of the disputed territory, and describing the British claim on it as “a blatant exercise of 19th Century colonialism”.

Within hours, Downing Street firmly rejected any negotiations and said it would “do everything to protect the interests of the Falklands islanders”.

The row came ahead of a referendum, in March, on the status of the British-administered islands which Argentina calls “La Malvinas”. Argentina regards the referendum as illegal, claiming that the islanders are “occupiers” and not legitimate citizens.

In her letter, published as an advertisement in The Guardian and The Independent, Ms.Kirchner accused Britain of “forcibly” occupying the islands exactly 180 years ago, on January 3, 1833, and changing its demography by expelling the original Argentinean population and replacing it with British settlers.

“The Argentines on the Islands were expelled by the Royal Navy and the United Kingdom subsequently began a population implantation process similar to that applied to other territories under colonial rule. Since then, Britain, the colonial power, has refused to return the territories to the Argentine Republic, thus preventing it from restoring its territorial integrity,” she said.

Ms. Kirchner urged Britain to abide by a 1960 U.N. resolution that proclaimed the necessity of “bringing to an end colonialism in all its forms and manifestations”. She also cited a 1965 resolution inviting the two countries to “negotiate a solution” to the dispute.

“The Question of the Malvinas Islands is also a cause embraced by Latin America and by a vast majority of peoples and governments around the world that reject colonialism,” she said.

Mr. Cameron’s spokesman said the people of the Falklands had “a clear desire to remain British” and the Argentinean government should respect their right to self determination.

The two countries fought a war over it in 1982, and though Britain reclaimed the islands the dispute has continued to simmer. Recently, Britain named a chunk in Antarctica after the Queen — a move regarded as a provocation by Argentina.

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