The Falkland Islands has overwhelmingly voted 'Yes' in a national referendum to decide whether to remain a British overseas territory.

Of the 1,517 votes cast, only three votes were not in favour. Turnout was more than 90 percent of the Islands' British population.

The referendum outcome has been welcomed by the UK government and the coalition urged "all countries" to respect the wishes of the islanders.

The people of the South Atlantic archipelago were asked: "Do you wish the Falkland Islands to retain their current political status as an overseas territory of the United Kingdom?"

Despite freezing temperatures, the residents of the islands quickly indulged in celebrations soon after the results were announced.

Governor of the Falkland Islands Nigel Haywood said: "Obviously, it is a major principle of the United Nations that people have their right to self-determination, and you don't get a much clearer expression of the people's self-determination than such a large turnout and such a large 'yes' vote."

UK Foreign Secretary William Hague has hailed the result of the referendum, saying it is the islanders' "right" to determine their future.

However Argentina, which has been making a vociferous claim to ownership of the islands over recent weeks, dismissed the two-day referendum as a publicity stunt.

"We must denounce this trickery that pretends to represent the popular participation of an implanted population. This publicity stunt has no validity for international law," said Senator Daniel Filmus, a close aide to President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

Alicia Castro, Argentina's ambassador to London, told a local radio station earlier: "This [referendum] is a ploy that has no legal value. Negotiations are in the islanders' best interest. We don't want to deny them their identity. They're British, we respect their identity and their way of life and that they want to continue to be British. But the territory they occupy is not British."

In response to Argentina's repudiation of the result, Falklands Assembly member Roger Edwards told Reuters: "We're never going to change Argentina's claim and point of view, but I believe there are an awful lot of countries out there that are sitting on the fence ... this is going to show them quite clearly what the people think/"