LONDON - The Foreign Office on Saturday brushed off condemnation by Argentina of British military exercises in the Falkland Islands, saying they were "routine". Buenos Aires condemned the manoeuvres, set for April 14 to 27, as a new "act of aggression" against Argentina and said it was summoning the British ambassador in protest.

The islands in the South Atlantic have been ruled by Britain since 1833 but Argentina claims them as their own and in 1982 attempted to seize control in a brief but bloody war. Tensions have resurfaced between the two countries in recent years after Britain opened the area to oil exploration. In a statement, a Foreign Office spokesman said the military manoeuvres were "routine exercises in the Falkland Islands that have happened approximately twice a year for many years".

He said advanced warning was always given to people working in the area, as well as to Argentina and to international hydrographic and maritime bodies.

Argentina President Cristina Kirchner claimed earlier this month that the Falklands served as a nuclear base for the NATO alliance, of which Britain is a member.

The Foreign Office spokesman said Saturday: "Argentine claims that we are 'militarising' the South Atlantic are wholly false. UK forces numbers have declined to the minimum necessary to defend the islands.

"Argentina's suggestion that the UK is seeking to threaten militarily either Argentina itself or the wider region is entirely without foundation, as is the suggestion that we deploy nuclear weapons in the region."