Four British oil companies carrying out exploration work near the Falkland Islands have been banned from operating in Argentina, the Buenos Aires government confirmed Friday.

Argentine President Cristina Kirchner's office said the four companies -- Borders and Southern Petroleum PLC, Desire Petroleum PLC, Argos Resources Ltd and Falkland Oil -- had carried out "illegal and clandestine" operations near the Falklands.

A statement said the four companies were banned from working in Argentina for 20 years for operating near the Falkland Islands without obtaining permission.

Argentina refuses to recognize Britain's claim over the Falklands, which it calls the Malvinas.

Situated in the South Atlantic Ocean some 500 kilometers (310 miles) off the coast of Argentina, and 14,000 kilometers from London, the islands were occupied by British settlers in 1833.

Britain and Argentina fought a war over the islands in 1982 following an invasion by Argentina's military junta.

Britain recaptured the islands after a war in which 649 Argentine and 244 British troops died.

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