Thursday, October 18, 2007

Argie bargie

The rush to carve up one of the world's last great wildernesses has gathered new momentum.

A day after Britain staked a claim to a vast oil-rich area of Antarctica, Argentina angrily hit back with its own claim - proclaiming its dominance over not only its own slice of the Antarctic, but over the Falklands and South Georgia as well.

"We are working on our presentation in defence of our national interests and sovereign rights," Argentine chancellor Jorge Taiana told La Nacion newspaper yesterday.

The Foreign Office's move to earmark 386,000 square miles of South Atlantic seabed for British sovereignty has also angered Chile. Between them, Argentina and Chile lay claim to most of the same territory.

Experts said the move could be immensely lucrative to Britain should seabed drilling become permissible.

The Foreign Office insisted it would not breach international treaties. A spokesman added: "It's incredibly unlikely the Antarctic Treaty would ever be abolished. But in order to safeguard our interests for the future, we are submitting a claim."

Russia fired the starting gun on the rush recently when it claimed vast tracts under the Arctic seabed and planted a Russian flag on the seabed beneath the North Pole.

Other countries, including Australia, France and Brazil, are also seeking to expand their sovereignty over huge areas of unclaimed seabed in what is being described as the last big carve-up of maritime territory.

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