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Argentina Launches Protest at UN over Falklands

Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman, left, meets with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, at the U.N., New York, February 10, 2012.

Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman, left, meets with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, at the U.N., New York, February 10, 2012.

Argentina’s government lodged a formal protest at the United Nations Friday over what it says is Britain’s “militarization” of the disputed Falkland Islands - known in Argentina as the Malvinas Islands.

Argentinian Foreign Minister Héctor Marcos Timerman met separately with the U.N. secretary-general, the president of the Security Council and the president of the General Assembly to present his complaint.

Afterwards, Timerman told reporters that Britain has increased its naval power in the South Atlantic “four-fold,” moving a modern warship, sophisticated fighter jets and a nuclear submarine into the region.

“Argentina has information that within the framework of the recent British deployment in the Malvinas Islands they sent a nuclear submarine with the capacity to transport nuclear weapons to the South Atlantic. This is a submarine which is called the Vanguard,” he said.

Timerman said his government had asked Britain to answer whether it is true that it has a nuclear submarine in the region - a violation, he says, of a treaty that declares Latin America a nuclear weapons free-zone. Timerman said his government is still waiting for an answer.

The foreign minister also expressed concern that the sophisticated military jets he says Britain is using in the region could reach his and several other Latin American countries without even needing to re-fuel.

The Falkland Islands are located in the Atlantic Ocean at the southeast tip of Argentina and are home to about 3,000 residents.

In April 1982, Argentina invaded the islands. Britain sent its forces and liberated them seven weeks later. Nearly a thousand soldiers were killed on both sides during the brief conflict.

British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant held his own news conference to rebut some of the Argentinian’s claims. He dismissed charges that his government is militarizing the region as “manifestly absurd.”

“Before 1982 there was a minimal defense presence on the Falkland Islands," he said. "It is only because Argentina illegally invaded the Falkland Islands in 1982 that since then we have had to increase our defense posture. Nothing has changed in that defense posture in recent months or recent years. “

On the Argentinian charge that Britain has brought a nuclear submarine into the region, Ambassador Lyall Grant said his government does not comment on the placement of its military assets, but did acknowledge that they are on patrol all over the world all of the time.

“Nuclear submarines, I don’t know how he knows where the nuke submarines are, I certainly don’t. The whole point of the defense deterrents is that the submarines go around the world in international waters and no one knows where they are, that is what makes them a deterrent,” said the ambassador.

He said that it may not be coincidence that the latest round of Argentinian rhetoric on the Islands came about after suggestions that there may be oil and gas reserves in the Falkland Island’s waters. The British envoy made clear, however, that if there are such resources they would benefit the residents of the Islands and not the British government.

Falkland residents hold British nationality and Ambasador Lyall Grant made it clear that if their safety is compromised Britain would defend them “robustly.” He also said should residents ask for a change in their status, the UK would do everything it could to help them achieve it. He added that Argentina is trying to claim sovereignty over a territory that it never possessed, simply because it is near to it.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met earlier Friday with the Argentinian foreign minister. In a statement, he called on both sides to “avoid an escalation” of the dispute and resolve differences peacefully through dialogue. The U.N. chief said he stands ready to assist in any way he can.