Britain is militarising Falklands, Argentina tells UN

UN secretary general concerned by escalation of dispute as Argentina lodges formal protest at recent deployments

Argentina has lodged a formal protest at the United Nations over Britain's "militarisation" of the Falkland Islands, further fuelling the row between London and Buenos Aires.

The Argentinian foreign minister, Héctor Timerman, presented a complaint on Friday to the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, who expressed concern about the increasingly strong exchanges in a summary of the meeting given by his office to reporters.

President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner announced the move earlier this week as part of her strategy to internationalise Argentina's campaign over the disputed south Atlantic islands.

She said Britain's dispatch of a modern destroyer, HMS Dauntless, to replace an older vessel, as well as Prince William, in his role as a search and rescue helicopter pilot, were provocations and presented a "grave risk for international security". Britain said the deployments were routine.

She also expressed alarm that Britain may be sending nuclear weapons to the islands, a reference to British media reports that one of the Royal Navy's Trafalgar-class submarines was on its way to the region. The Ministry of Defence said it did not comment on such deployments.

Timerman, an energetic advocate of Argentina's grievances, was also due to meet Togolese diplomat Kodjo Menan, who holds the rotating UN security council presidency, and Cuba's ambassador Pedro Nuñez Mosquera, head of the UN's decolonisation committee. Later he was expected to address the media.

Argentina claims Britain stole the islands, situated 300 miles off the coast of Patagonia, in 1833. Argentina calls the archipelago Las Malvinas.

The British ambassador to the UN, Mark Lyall Grant, was due to address the media after Timerman's press conference. On Thursday, David Cameron reiterated British sovereignty, saying: "As long as the people of the Falkland Islands want to maintain that status, we will make sure they do and we will defend the Falkland Islands properly to make sure that's the case."

Tensions between the two countries have surged in the runup to the 30th anniversary of Falklands war in which a British expeditionary force expelled Argentinian troops.

Relations thawed in the 1990s but frosted again in 2010 when British firms started drilling for oil, triggering a diplomatic and commercial squeeze by Argentina's president. She recently convinced much of Latin America to ban ships flying the Falkland Islands flag from their ports.

The islands have since experienced shortages of fresh fruit, notably bananas, but otherwise claims to be unaffected. However, it fears Argentina will close its airspace to a weekly commercial flight between Chile and the islands, its main link to south America and the world.


Rory Carroll, Latin America correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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