Residents of the Falkland Islands voted overwhelmingly to remain part of Britain in a referendum Monday, adding to the heated territorial dispute between Argentina and Britain about the remote islands.
The official count showed that nearly 100 percent of all votes cast approved the question for the self-governing island to remain an Overseas Territory of the United Kingdom, with only three "no" votes cast. Officials say 92 percent of the island's 1,650 eligible voters cast a ballot in the referendum.
The vote was never in doubt, with islanders wearing outfits resembling the red, white and blue British Union Jack flag in the capital of Stanley.
Residents hope the vote will send a signal not only to Buenos Aires, but the rest of the world, about their wishes to remain under British rule.
"There's been an extremely high turnout of people and the vote is surprising, even to me," said Nigel Haywood, Falkland Islands governor. "Its absolutely positive and I think the message that it sends out is to countries around the world that, when Argentina comes talking to you and saying, 'Look, we have a claim on the islands', those countries can say, well, 'Stop.'"
But Argentina has dismissed the referendum as illegitimate. Alicia Castro, Argentina's ambassador to the United Kingdom, told an Argentine radio station that although Buenos Aires respects the islanders' "way of life" and their identity as British subjects, the island itself is belongs to Argentina. Castro says the issue must be resolved directly between Britain and Argentina.
Argentine President Cristina Kirschner has become increasingly vocal in expressing her country's claim of sovereignty of the remote islands, called Malvinas in Spanish. Argentina's military government invaded the Falklands in 1982, but lost control after a brief war with Britain that left more than 900 people dead.
Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.