LONDON - The Falkland Islands government said Tuesday that it plans a referendum next year on the political future of the tiny south Atlantic archipelago, seeking to end Argentina’s claims of sovereignty and to secure its status as a British territory.
Gavin Short, chairman of the Falklands’ Legislature, made the announcement ahead of Thursday’s 30th anniversary of the end of the brief 1982 war between Britain and Argentina over the islands, in which more than 900 people died.
Tensions have risen ahead of the June 14 anniversary, with Argentina’s president, Cristina Fernandez, planning to press her country’s case at a meeting of the UN’s decolonization committee to be held on Thursday in New York.
Short said he hoped that a referendum would help the Falklanders “convey a strong message to the outside world’’ about their desire to retain ties to London.
“We are holding this referendum not because we have any doubts about who we are and what future we want, but to show the world just how very certain we are about that,’’ Short said in a statement.
He said he had no doubt that the people of the Falklands “wish for the islands to remain a self-governing overseas territory of the United Kingdom.’’
The British prime minister, David Cameron, said his country would abide by whatever choice the islanders make when they hold their vote, and urged Argentina and its allies to do the same.
“Britain will respect and defend their choice. We look to all UN members to live up to their responsibilities under the UN charter and accept the islanders’ decision about how they want to live,’’ he said.
Argentines insist that since 1833 Britain has illegally occupied the islands they call the Islas Malvinas.
Britain accuses Buenos Aires of ignoring the wishes of the island’s population of about 3,000 people.