April 3, 2015 / 4:38 PM / in 2 years

UK spied on Argentina over Falklands from 2006 to 2011: media

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Britain spied on Argentine military and political leaders to ensure the security of the Falkland Islands from 2006 to 2011, according to a local television channel, citing intelligence documents provided by U.S. whistle blower Edward Snowden.

Channel TN (TN.com.ar) said it got the documents from a team of reporters in Brazil who have been working with Snowden.

One of the documents, labeled Top Secret and dated 2010, described "efforts to collect high-priority military and leadership communications," it said.

Tensions over the Falklands still simmer more than 30 years after the two countries fought a brief war, won by Britain, for control of the South Atlantic archipelago.

The islands lie 300 miles (480 km) off the Argentine coast and 8,000 miles (12,870 km) from Britain. About 2,800 people live on the islands, where the main industries are raising sheep, fishing and some tourism.

Oil has also been discovered in the area, raising the stakes in the dispute over control of the archipelago.

TN reporter Eddie Fitte said he learned of the documents several days ago when he received a series of telephone calls from Snowden's media team in Rio de Janeiro. Each call lasted less than one minute in order to scuttle wiretapping attempts, he said.

The caller summoned him to Rio the next day, and asked him to be at a designated corner of the city at 4 p.m. to collect the documents, Fitte said. He was taken to a "bunker" where he was asked to turn over his cellphone while he collected the material that appeared on TNs website on Friday.

A spokesman for Britain’s Foreign Office said the government would neither confirm nor deny the reports. No one from the Argentine government was immediately available to comment.

Former U.S. intelligence contractor Snowden lives in Russia after leaking sensitive information about U.S. surveillance programs.

Argentine forces seized the Falklands in 1982 and Britain sent a task force to retake them in a brief war in which more than 600 Argentine and 255 British servicemen were killed.

Britain's government said last week it would reinforce its military presence on the Falklands to counter the "very live threat" posed by Argentina. Argentina dismisses such talk as posturing ahead of upcoming British elections.

Additional reporting by Maximilian Heath in Buenos Aires and Michael Holden in London; Editing by Dan Grebler

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