'Aggressive' Argentina boycotts Falklands ceremonies

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The Independent Online

Twenty five years after the Falklands War, Britain and Argentina are as far from settling the dispute as ever, MPs have been warned.

Falkland Islanders marked the anniversary of the war by warning yesterday that calls for the "Malvinas" to be reclaimed are rising again in Argentina.

The cost of maintaining British forces in the Falklands is £143m a year but the British Government will not reopen discussions on the sovereignty of the islands, said Alan Huddle, the governor of the Falklands.

As both sides sought to draw lessons from the battle over the islands, occupied by sixth-generation settlers 8,000 miles from Britain, there were clear signs that the wounds have not yet healed.

A briefing note to MPs from the House of Commons Library says that claims to the disputed islands are rising again in Argentina.

"Successive Argentinian governments since the mid-1980s have asserted that the Falkland Islands should be reclaimed by diplomatic means. More recently, the Argentinian government has adopted a more aggressive stance," the note says.

It quotes the Argentinian Foreign Minister, Jorge Taiana, saying the right to self-determination was not applicable to the Falkland Islands because the islanders were a "British population transplanted with the intention of setting up a colony".

Argentina is boycotting commemorations in June in London and in Port Stanley, the capital of the Falklands, marking the anniversary of the end of the war. Argentina, which lost about 655 troops in the war, will organise its own commemoration in Buenos Aires.

Relatives of the dead Argentinian soldiers are being invited to hold a private memorial ceremony on the islands later this year, the Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett said.

They were being offered the opportunity to travel to Darwin - a settlement in Lafonia on East Falkland - for a ceremony at the Argentinian Military Cemetery, Mrs Beckett said. "The resulting loss of life on both sides is a source of continuing regret," she said.

"The commemorative events this year, planned in the UK and on the islands, will be a fitting and respectful tribute to all those who fought in the 1982 conflict."

She added: "The UK remains keen to foster a constructive relationship with Argentina, and to promote practical co-operation both in the South Atlantic and on broader issues of international co-operation."

Lord Carrington, who resigned as Foreign Secretary over his failure to prevent the invasion, said yesterday that Margaret Thatcher had been advised by military chiefs not to go to war. She showed great "bravery" in deciding to launch the task force to reclaim the islands, he said.

The British victory in Port Stanley, with the loss of 236 British troops, led to the humiliating downfall of the Argentinian military junta led by General Leopoldo Galtieri. Lady Thatcher has privately admitted that she would have been brought down if the assault had failed.

A band of Falklands volunteers, who risked their lives to defend the islands from invasion, gathered yesterday to relive their experiences. About 30 of those who served with the Falkland Islands Defence Force (FIDF) on the night of 1-2 April 1982, when Argentinian troops invaded, were planning to march through Port Stanley. Major Peter Biggs, current commanding officer of the FIDF, said: "Most of them really thought they were going out to die that night. They were informed there was a huge invasion force and asked to turn out."

War in the South Atlantic

1-2 April 1982: Argentinian forces invade.

2 May: Argentinian cruiser General Belgrano sunk outside the British exclusion zone with loss of 323 lives.

4 May: HMS Sheffield hit by Exocet missile, killing 20.

21 May: British forces land at San Carlos. HMS Ardent is sunk, killing 22 .

25 May: HMS Coventry sunk, killing 19, and container ship Atlantic Conveyor hit by Exocet missile, killing 12.

28 May: 17 British soldiers killed at Goose Green.

8 June: RFA Sir Galahad and RFA Sir Tristram bombed at Fitzroy, killing 51.

13-14: British forces take approaches to Port Stanley.

14 June: Argentinian General Menendez surrenders.

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