WASHINGTON, March 12 (Xinhua) -- The Obama administration on Tuesday said that its position regarding the Falkland Islands, known as the Malvinas to the Argentines, remains unchanged, but acknowledged that the Falklands residents have clearly expressed their preference in a recent referendum.
"The residents have clearly expressed their preference for a continued relationship with the United Kingdom," U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said of the two-day referendum that ended Monday on the islands, in which 99.8 percent of participating voters chose to keep the archipelago a self- governing British overseas territory.
"That said, we obviously recognize that there are competing claims," Nuland told reporters at a regular news briefing here. " Our formal position has not changed. We recognize the de facto UK administration of the islands, but we take no position on sovereignty claims."
The islands, inhabited by less than 3,000 people, have been under British control since 1833, but are claimed by Argentina as well. The two countries fought a brief war in June 1982, resulting in the death of 649 Argentines and 255 British soldiers.
Most countries in the Western Hemisphere stand behind Argentina, while the United States has called for a peaceful resolution of the dispute.
The vast majority of the Falklands residents are of British descent. Argentina has dismissed the referendum as a meaningless publicity stunt that carries no international legitimacy.