Argentina slams Cameron on Falklands

2012-01-26 08:48

Buenos Aires - Just back to work after a medical leave, President Cristina Kirchner on Wednesday accused British Prime Minister David Cameron of portraying Argentina as "violent" in the Falkland Islands dispute.

Kirchner, dressed in black and a small surgery scar visible on her throat, plunged back into one of her country's most sensitive and longest-running disputes: Over the South Atlantic islands Britain has held since 1833, and Buenos Aires considers its own.

"They are trying to paint us as bad guys, or violent guys and really, that is not who we are," Kirchner told a packed auditorium in a lengthy speech after 20 days of medical leave for thyroid surgery.

Cameron had accused Argentina of a "colonialist" attitude, a comment which enraged many in Argentina.

Protesters marched on the British embassy in Buenos Aires on Friday, burning the Union Jack, and demanding Argentina snap diplomatic ties with London.

"The United Nations Committee on Decolonisation has 16 cases open on places that remain colonies, of which 10 are British colonies, and one of the best known is our beloved Malvinas islands," Kirchner stressed.

Not an invader

She said she would keep using diplomacy to try to bring back the islands under the control of Buenos Aires.

"We are not part of any country's invading strike force," Kirchner said in a swipe at Britain's international military role.

"Our armed forces only take part in peacekeeping missions. And that is a political decision of democratic governments since 1983."

Renewed tensions come months before the 30th anniversary of the brief, but bloody, war between the two countries over the islands.

The 74-day war for control of the Falklands started on April 2 1982 and killed 649 Argentines and 255 British. It also forced Argentina to withdraw from the islands in the south Atlantic Ocean.

Cameron has also convened Britain's National Security Council to ensure military defences are ready to defend the Falklands.

Call for negotiations

Tension between Buenos Aires and London has intensified since 2010, when London authorised oil prospecting around the islands - population around 3 000 - which are located about 400 nautical miles from Argentina.

The US State Department meanwhile has called for negotiations between Argentina and Britain to resolve the dispute.

Kirchner, aged 58, underwent surgery to remove her thyroid gland after a cancer diagnosis, which later tests showed was inaccurate.

The president underwent surgery less than a month after her inauguration on December 10. She won re-election to a second term during the October election with more than 54% of the vote.

During Kirchner's medical leave, Vice President Amado Boudou officially assumed her executive duties.

Questions raised by the newspaper Clarin and other opposition media about her diagnosis and operation had prompted Fernandez to release her medical records, reinforcing what her doctors and outside experts said: She is among the 2% of patients who have their thyroids removed only to discover they never had cancer, reported AP.

Politics before style

"I was going to come with a handkerchief because it doesn't look very aesthetic," she said, referring to the deep horizontal crease just above her collarbone that appears to have healed nicely during her 20-day medical leave.

"But I thought, if I cover it up with a handkerchief, tomorrow Clarin will say, 'This woman wasn't operated on,'" she joked. "You all know that aesthetics are very important to me, but I told myself, 'Sweetie, politics before style.'"

Fernandez's last public appearance had been Dec. 28, the day after her office announced the cancer diagnosis. Doctors removed the entire gland on January 4 after discovering several more lumps during surgery. Tests then showed the growths were benign.

Kirchner is Argentina's first elected female president. She succeeded her husband, Nestor Kirchner, who died of a heart attack in October 2010.

 

Read more on:    cristina kirchner  |  david cameron  |  falkland islands  |  uk  |  argentina
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