By DAVID STRINGER, Associated Press
LONDON (AP) — The British government summoned Argentina's top diplomat to the Foreign Office on Wednesday to explain his country's decision to ask 20 leading companies to stop importing British products and supplies because of the dispute over the Falkland Islands.
Argentine Industry Minister Debora Giorgi told the companies Tuesday they should replace British imports with products from other nations as Argentina stepped up its attempt to pressure London to negotiate about the sovereignty of the islands.
Tensions are rising ahead of the anniversary of the brief war between Argentina and Britain over the Falklands, which began on April 2, 1982, and saw more than 900 people die.
Britain's Foreign Office raised its concerns about the imports to Argentine charge d'affaires Osvaldo Marsico, who it said is expected to "report back to Buenos Aires for urgent clarification." Marsico is Argentina's chief diplomat in Britain, as the country has not had a full ambassador since 2008.
"We made clear that such actions against legitimate commercial activity were a matter of concern not just for the UK, but for the EU as a whole, and that we expect the EU to lodge similar concerns with Argentine authorities," Britain's Foreign Office said in a statement Wednesday.
Argentina's Foreign Ministry issued a statement later in the day indicating the South American government hoped to use Britain's trade complaint as a way to persuade the European Union to look at the sovereignty dispute.
EU members will be able to "check violations of the United nations resolutions on the part of Britain," the statement said.
A British Foreign Office spokesman, speaking on customary condition of anonymity in line with policy, said that Argentina would not benefit from threatening trade.
"The U.K. is the sixth largest investor in Argentina, and we import from Argentina significantly more than we export to them," the spokesman said. "So it is firmly not in Argentina's economic interest to put up these barriers to trade."
Officials also planned to discuss Argentina's decision on Monday to turn away two Carnival Corp. cruise ships from its southernmost city of Ushuaia, invoking a new law that bars vessels linked to Britain.
Prime Minister David Cameron's spokesman Steve Field said it was "very sad that Argentina continues with their approach of confrontation, not cooperation."
Argentina has become increasingly assertive over its claims to the islands that it calls the Malvinas, as well as the British-held South Georgia and South Sandwich islands. At stake are not only the islands, but also rich fishing grounds and potential undersea gas and oil reserves in the surrounding seas.
Cameron insists London will not enter negotiations on the sovereignty of the islands. He has said the people of the Falklands must decide their own future and claims Argentina has taken a colonialist approach to the islands' residents.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.