Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has appeared before a UN committee, demanding Britain discuss her country's claim to the Falklands Islands, on the 30th anniversary of the war over the disputed territory.
Kirchner made a highly unusual appearance at the UN decolonisation committee on Thursday to challenge Britain, which has steadfastly refused contacts on sovereignty.
"We are not asking anyone to say yes, the Malvinas belong to Argentina," Kirchner said, using the Spanish name for the British-ruled islands. "We are asking no more, no less than to sit down and talk."
Kirchner'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, which the Argentine military invaded and occupied for 74 days in 1982.
Tensions between Argentina and Britain have escalated in recent months, especially since British companies have started to carry out offshore oil exploration.
Kirchner 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.
In London, Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron vowed to defend the Falklands against new "aggression" and said there could be no sovereignty negotiations.
"My message to the government of Argentina is this: the UK has no aggressive intentions towards you. Accusations of militarisation and nuclear threats are hyperbole and propaganda," he said.
Britain says it will agree to talks only if the 3,000 islanders want them.
Roger Edwards, a member of the Falkland Islands' Legislative Assembly, told the committee the Falklanders' right of self-determination was guaranteed under the UN charter and would be exercised in a referendum early next year on whether to keep British rule for the South Atlantic islands.
"as much as Argentina might like to air-brush us out of existence, to satisfy its unjustified lust for our land, such behaviour belongs to another era and should not be tolerated in this modern world"
- Mike Summers, Falklands legislator
"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 neighbouring country," he said. He also cited an opinion poll that found 96 per cent of the islanders wanted to keep British rule.
Falklands legislator Mike Summers said in a speech to the committee that Argentina wanted to "air-brush" the Falklands population away from the islands.
"Are we in any way less human; are we second class people with unequal rights, just because we are not Hispanic? Or are we insignificant because we are too few, free to be abused by a bigger bullying neighbour?" Summers asked.
"Of course we are not, and as much as Argentina might like to air-brush us out of existence, to satisfy its unjustified lust for our land, such behaviour belongs to another era and should not be tolerated in this modern world."
But Alejandro Betts, an Argentine who left the islands after the 1982 war, told the committee that Britain illegally and undemocratically occupied the islands and controlled its government.
Kirchner also held talks with UN leader Ban Ki-moon who "acknowledged the strong regional support for this issue and reiterated that his good offices to resolve this dispute remain available if the parties are willing to engage," said UN spokesman Martin Nesirky.
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|Liaquat Ali Khan|