War of words heats up over the Falklands

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Argentina's president yesterday (7 February) accused Britain of "militarising the South Atlantic" and vowed to complain to the United Nations as tension rises ahead of the 30th anniversary of the Falklands war.

Britain and Argentina went to war over the disputed British-ruled Falkland Islands in 1982, and London rejects Argentine demands for sovereignty negotiations unless the roughly 3,000 islanders want talks to be held (see background).

"They're militarising the South Atlantic once again," President Cristina Fernández said in a speech at the presidential palace, criticising the deployment of British destroyer HMS Dauntless in the area in the coming months.

"If there's one thing we're going to preserve, besides our natural resources, is a region where peace prevails," she said, adding that the Foreign Ministry would present a formal complaint to the UN Security Council and General Assembly.

She also criticised Prince William's posting as a military search-and-rescue pilot in the islands, called Las Malvinas in Spanish: "We would have liked to see him dressed as a civilian, not with a military uniform," she said.

A war of words between the two governments has escalated in recent months.

Fernández, a fiery former senator who started her political career in the Patagonian region closest to the islands, has described Britain as a "crass colonial power in decline." British Prime Minister David Cameron hit back by accusing Argentina of colonialism.

Oil exploration by British companies off the islands has raised the stakes over the sovereignty dispute.

Three decades on, memories of the war remain painful in Argentina, where most people see the decision by Argentina to land in the islands on 2 April 1982 as a mistake by the discredited military dictatorship ruling at the time.

Fernandez also signed a decree on Tuesday to declassify a military report that was commissioned in the aftermath of the 10-week conflict in which about 650 Argentine and 255 British troops were killed.

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