Falklands Anniversary: Argentinian President Attacks 'Absurd' Britain

PA/The Huffington Post UK  |  By   |  Posted: 2/04/2012 19:31 Updated: 2/04/2012 19:31

Falklands Islands
A child at the Malvinas Falklands war Memorial in Ushuaia, Argentina

Argentina's president has condemned Britain's "ridiculous and absurd" stance on the Falkland Island as ceremonies were held to mark the 30th annoversary of the conflict.

Leading her country's commemorations of the conflict, which cost the lives of 649 Argentines, Christina Fernandez de Kirchner called for talks on ending the "unjust" situation - something London has ruled out for as long as no change is demanded by the islanders themselves.

de Kirchner was talking as the anniversary of the invasion of the Islands was marked by both war widows' prayers and a renewed push by Argentina for control of the territory. In a speech that illustrated how the diplomatic battle showed no signs of abating, she attacked the UK's "colonial" ambitions, saying:

"It is unjust that, in the 21st century, there are still colonial enclaves such as the one we have here a few kilometres away. There are only 16 such colonial enclaves in the world, 10 of which are British."

Meanwhile, Mr Cameron who, like Ms Kirchner, included the enemy dead in his anniversary message, insisted Britain was no less committed now to than in 1982 to protecting the right to self-determination.

"Britain remains staunchly committed to upholding the right of the Falkland Islanders, and of the Falkland Islanders alone, to determine their own future," he said.

"That was the fundamental principle that was at stake 30 years ago: and that is the principle which we solemnly re-affirm today."

It was, he said, "a day to remember all those who lost their lives" on both sides as well as to "salute the heroism of the Task Force" sent to correct a "profound wrong".

His words were echoed by Defence Secretary Philip Hammond, who also dismissed warnings from former military chiefs that the UK would be unable to defend the islands from a new invasion.

"We will defend them robustly, we have the assets, the people, the equipment in place to do so," he said in response to comments by the man who led the task force, Admiral Sir John Woodward.

The lack of an aircraft carrier would make a repeat impossible, the ex-Navy chief told The Times.

Mr Hammond noted however that there was "not the slightest intelligence to suggest that there is any credible military threat to the Falklands".

Argentina's complaints - including to the United Nations - of "militarisation" by the UK will be heightened by the deployment on Tuesday of the Navy's most advanced warship for its maiden operation.

Destroyer HMS Dauntless will set sail from Portsmouth for the Falklands, a day before the 30th anniversary of the task force leaving the UK for its mammoth voyage.

It comes after Argentine hackles were raised by the "provocative" six-week deployment of Prince William to the islands as an RAF search and rescue helicopter pilot.

The Ministry of Defence has played down what it says is a "pre-planned and routine operation" to take over the patrols of Plymouth-based frigate HMS Montrose.

Spurred on by the discovery of oil reserves off the Falklands, President Kirchner has spearheaded an intense reassertion of Argentina's claim over what it calls Las Malvinas.

It has secured the support of other South American countries for a ban on Falkland-flagged ships in their ports and is seeking to restrict flights as part of an economic squeeze.

At the weekend, it threatened legal action against British and American banks involved in advising UK companies exploring for oil.

Foreign Secretary William Hague, who has led a push to improve UK trade and other links with South America, described Argentina's recent aggressive actions as "deeply regrettable".

The political tensions provided a backdrop to commemorations - notably a service of remembrance at the National Memorial Arboretum's Millennium Chapel attended by widows of those killed.

A single candle was lit and will be left alight for the 74 days of the conflict.

Among those attending was the widow of 2 Para commander Lt Col "H" Jones, who died while leading a charge against an Argentine machine gun post at Goose Green.

"The islanders have always been fiercely British and want to stay that way. I would like to believe that we would, if we could, do it again," Sara Jones said.

A memorial, initiated by the South Atlantic Medal Association (SAMA 82), will be unveiled at the Arboretum on May 20, in front of more than 600 veterans.

Shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy said: "We must remember all those who fought.

"Over 900 lives were lost and we pay special tribute to the sacrifice of the 255 Britons who fell fighting for our country.

"Despite recent Argentinian belligerence, relations between our two countries are totally different from early 1982, but we continue to stand for that right.

"There is no evidence Falkland Islanders want anything other than to remain British.

"Commemorations this month will be about our pride in that principle as well as honouring the dead and injured."

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