Argentina's Fernandez takes Falklands claim to U.N
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez made a highly unusual appearance at a U.N. decolonization committee on Thursday where she argued that the Falklands Islands are Argentine territory and should not be under British rule.
Fernandez's decision to speak to a committee that is typically the realm of mid-ranking diplomats is the latest move in her wide-ranging diplomatic offensive to assert her country's claims to the islands, known in Spanish as Las Malvinas, which are part of Britain's self-governing overseas territories.
U.N. envoys said Fernandez had asked the Special Committee on Decolonization to hold a session on the islands on June 14, the 30th anniversary of Britain's victory in 1982 in a 10-week war over the Falklands that ended Argentina's brief occupation there and led to the collapse of its military dictatorship.
Fernandez told the committee the fact that the Falklands remain under British rule and are not part of Argentina is "an affront to the world which we all dream of."
"How can it be part of British territory when it's 14,000 miles away?" she asked.
Fernandez, who spoke for nearly an hour, repeated Buenos Aires' allegations that Britain has militarized the southwest Atlantic in recent months, a charge London has denied.
Earlier Fernandez met with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who reiterated his offer to mediate in Argentina's dispute with Britain if the two sides request it, Ban's press office said. Britain says it will agree to talks only if the 3,000 islanders want them - something they show no sign of doing.
Roger Edwards, a member of the Falkland Islands' Legislative Assembly, told the committee the Falklanders' right of self-determination was guaranteed under the U.N. charter and would be exercised in a referendum early next year on whether to keep British rule for the South Atlantic islands.
"Today, therefore, all that we ask for is the right to determine our own future without having to endure the belligerent and bullying tactics of a neighboring country," he said. He also cited an opinion poll that found 96 percent of the islanders wanted to keep British rule.
BRITAIN READY TO DEFEND FALKLANDS
Edwards accused Argentina of waging "economic warfare against the people of the Falkland Islands."
He said Buenos Aires has banned charter flights through Argentine airspace, threatened to intercept shipping and attempted to persuade other South American countries to refuse lawful entry of Falkland Islands-registered ships.
Edwards further accused Argentina of trying to "harm and damage our hydrocarbons industry" and attempting to damage its fishing and tourism industries.
The decolonization committee, which is known as "C-24" at the United Nations, adopted a non-binding resolution sponsored by a number of Latin American states that was similar to ones adopted in previous years. It calls on Argentina and Britain to enter into negotiations on the islands.
Prime Minister David Cameron warned Argentina on Thursday that London was "ready and willing" to defend the Falkland Islands.
Cameron also accused the Argentine government of "aggression" and said there would be "absolutely no negotiation" over sovereignty of the tiny islands about 300 miles off the Argentine coast.
Tensions between the two countries have escalated in recent months, especially since British companies have started to carry out offshore oil exploration.
While trying to build support for Argentina's stance in Latin America and elsewhere, Fernandez's government has also sought to disrupt oil exploration in the Falklands with legal threats and shipping curbs.
The Falklands are among the scattered remnants of the once mighty British Empire, which towered over 19th century history but faded into decline after World War Two.
Argentina argues it is absurd for Britain to have control of land so far from its own shores, accusing London of maintaining "colonial enclaves."
(Editing by Eric Walsh)
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