UK's Cameron disagrees with pope over Falklands

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Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron holds a news conference at the end of a European Union leaders summit in Brussels March 15, 2013. REUTERS/Yves Herman

LONDON: The pope may be infallible to his followers, but not to British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Pope Francis - the Argentine cardinal elected as the new pontiff - has been quoted as describing the Falkland Islands as Argentine soil that was "usurped" by Britain.

The islands in the South Atlantic have been British territory since 1833, but are also claimed by Argentina, which calls them the Malvinas.

Islanders last week voted overwhelmingly "yes" in a referendum on remaining a British Overseas Territory. Of 1,517 votes cast, only three islanders said no.

Cameron on Friday urged the pope and other world leaders to respect that vote, saying: "The white smoke over the Falklands was pretty clear."

When asked about the pope's views on the Falklands at a Brussels news conference, Cameron said he doesn't agree with the pontiff, "respectfully, obviously."

"There was a pretty extraordinarily clear referendum in the Falkland Islands, and I think that is a message to everyone in the world that the people of these islands have chosen very clearly the future they want and that choice should be respected by everyone," Cameron said.

Argentina's ambassador to London has said the referendum was organized by and for the British, just to claim the islands for Britain.

The new pope's views on the Falklands made headlines in Britain as soon as Francis - formerly Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio - was elected.

The British press has fixated on comments he made last year during a Mass to commemorate 30 years since the 1982 war over the islands between Britain and Argentina.

"We're going to pray for those who have fallen, children of the fatherland who went out to defend their mother, the fatherland, to reclaim what is theirs for the fatherland and that was usurped from them," the then-cardinal said.

The Daily Star - Lebanon