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Argentine judge orders seizure of assets belonging to oil firms working in Falklands waters

San Francisco: The Falklands Islands’ oil dispute was turned up a notch with a decision by an Argentine judge to order seizure of oil companies’ assets amounting to $156m.

Five overseas companies were named – the UK’s Premier Oil Plc, Rockhopper Exploration Plc and London HQ’d Falkland Oil and Gas Ltd, US firm Noble Energy Inc, and French-owned, Milan-based Edison International Spa – and the order covers seizure of bank accounts, boats and other equipment.

It is not clear how the ruling can be enforced as the companies do not generally hold any assets in Argentina or use Argentine waters.

Tensions between Britain and Argentina have risen in recent years since the discovery of oil deposits in the disputed islands.

Feelings about the islands, which Argentina calls the Malvinas, are at their hottest in the Latin American nation since the early 1980s when a brief war was fight. In 1982 Argentina, then ruled by a military dictatorship, invaded the islands which lie 700km off their shore.

Britain, the sovereign power, sent a naval task force to the South Atlantic to reclaim the islands in a less-than-three-month conflict that cost around 900 lives.

The citizens of the islands want to remain under British sovereignty.

Argentina has elections coming in October, which could explain the tougher stance.

Donal Scully
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