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Argentine leader refuses to bow over Falklands

BUENOS AIRES -- Argentine President Cristina Kirchner, her approval rating plummeting, has refused to recognize the results of a referendum in which the people of the disputed Falkland Islands voted to remain British.

The vote in the sparsely populated South Atlantic archipelago that triggered a war between the two nations in 1982 was a “parody,” she said. Even the United States, Britain's firmest ally, acknowledged Argentina's claim.

British Prime Minister David Cameron had earlier urged the Latin American country to respect the wishes of 99.8 percent of the islanders who voted “yes” to staying a self-governing British territory, according to official results.

The islanders organized the vote in response to increasingly bellicose sovereignty rhetoric by Kirchner, and only three of the 1,517 valid ballots — on 92 percent turnout — were cast against the islands staying under British rule.

Kirchner's government had dismissed the referendum as meaningless and said it would not affect its claims on the Falklands which it calls “Las Malvinas.”

She reiterated her displeasure late Tuesday at an event at the presidential mansion.

“What is important today is the United States' position about this kind of parody of a referendum,” Kirchner said. “The State Department spokeswoman said that they continue to recognize that there is a sovereignty dispute between Argentina and Britain.”

The United States earlier said it took “note” of the islanders' vote, but refused once again to take sides in the dispute.

“The residents have clearly expressed their preference for a continued relationship with the United Kingdom,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

“That said, we obviously recognize that there are competing claims.”

Argentina failed to seize the islands back from Britain in the brief 1982 war.

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Residents celebrate the results of a referendum in Stanley, Falkland Islands, Monday, March 11. An overwhelming 99.8 percent of Falkland Islands voters have backed keeping their government just the way it is: a British Overseas Territory. (AP)

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