LONDON (AFP) - Prime Minister David Cameron said on Sunday Britain was prepared to fight militarily to keep the Falkland Islands if necessary, in the face of renewed Argentinian rhetoric over their future.
Mr Cameron said Britain had "strong defences" in place on the islands and fast jets and troops were stationed there - comments Buenos Aires rejected as "militaristic threats."
President Cristina Kirchner said this week that Argentina was forcibly stripped of the Falklands by Britain in "a blatant exercise of 19th-century colonialism" and demanded they be handed over to Argentina.
Mr Cameron insisted he was "absolutely clear" that Britain would defend the islands with military force.
In an interview on BBC TV, he said: "I get regular reports on this entire issue because I want to know that our defences are strong, our resolve is extremely strong."
Asked whether Britain would fight to keep the islands, he replied: "Of course we would, and we have strong defences in place on the Falkland Islands, that is absolutely key, that we have fast jets stationed there, we have troops stationed on the Falklands."
In Argentina, the foreign ministry issued a strong rebuttal following Mr Cameron's comments.
It hit out at what it called "the aggressiveness of the British prime minister's words" and reiterated its demand that London honour a UN General Assembly resolution that invites the two sides to hold talks on the dispute.
Mr Cameron said this week that the 3,000 residents of the Falklands had a strong desire to remain British and would have a chance to express their views in a referendum on their political status to be held in March.
The islanders are expected to vote strongly in favour of continued union with Britain.
Census data released in September showed that 95 per cent of residents considered themselves to be either Falkland islanders, British, or from Saint Helena, another British overseas territory in the South Atlantic.
Argentina invaded the Falklands in 1982, prompting Britain's then prime minister Margaret Thatcher to send a naval taskforce to successfully reclaim the islands in a war that claimed the lives of 255 British and 649 Argentinian soldiers.