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British foreign secretary visits Brazil

Associated Press

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) – Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague praised Brazil’s growing economic and political power as he opened two days of talks with the country’s leaders, and also assured that British policy on the Falkland Islands will not change despite pressure from Argentina.

Hague’s visit comes a month after Argentina persuaded Brazil to join a Mercosur trade group resolution to turn away from its ports any ship flying the Falklands’ flag, which shows a sheep and a ship along with the United Kingdom’s red, white and blue Union Jack.

Britain has ruled the Falklands, which lie 290 miles (460 kilometers) east of Argentina’s coast, for more than 180 years, but Argentina claims sovereignty over the islands, which it calls the Malvinas. The two countries fought a brief war over the islands in 1982.

“The British outlook is well known … and won’t change,” Hague told reporters after meeting Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota. “We believe in the self determination of the people of the Falkland Islands. It is a matter of their rights, it is a matter of their human rights. That will continue to be our view.”

Patriota said Brazil also wouldn’t change its stance and would join its neighbor Argentina and other South American nations in turning away ships flying Falkland Island flags.

“Minister Hague knows that Brazil … supports the sovereignty of Argentina over the Malvinas and we support the United Nations resolution that calls for discussion about the issue with Argentina,” Patriota said.

British Prime Minister David Cameron told lawmakers in London on Wednesday that he held a special meeting of Britain’s National Security Council to discuss the tensions over the Falkland Islands. He said the panel of ministers, military chiefs and spy masters met on Tuesday, amid growing concern about Argentina’s diplomatic offensive over the South Atlantic territory.

“The absolutely vital point is that we are clear that the future of the Falkland Islands is a matter for the people themselves,” Cameron said. “As long as they want to remain part of the United Kingdom and be British, they should be able to do so.”

The Falklands issues aside, Hague said he and Patriota had “searching and productive discussions” about rapid political changes in the Middle East, British support for Brazil to have a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, and ongoing concerns about Iran’s nuclear program.

Hague’s visit to Brazil includes a stop in Rio de Janeiro, where he will deliver a speech and meet with top officials on Thursday.

In an opinion article published by Rio de Janeiro’s O Globo newspaper this week, Hague said the fact that London will host the Olympic Games later this year and Rio de Janeiro in 2016 binds the two nations.

“Sport _ from the Grand Prix to football _ unites us. Brazilian football players are as well known in the U.K. as they are here,” Hague wrote. “The games will provide the chance of a lifetime for host cities and countries to showcase our societies and to promote worldwide our most important values.”

Brazil’s economy is expected to surpass that of the United Kingdom as the world’s sixth largest, showing “your country’s formidable economic power, and the opportunities for joint working that come with it as both our nations seek to grow our economies,” Hague wrote.

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Associated Press writers Stan Lehman in Sao Paulo and David Stringer in London contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)