Sat, Jun 16, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Britain, Argentina remember Falklands War


Britain and Argentina remembered the 25th anniversary of the end of the Falkland Islands conflict on Thursday, with British leaders attending a memorial service and Argentina's president calling Britain's triumph an unacceptable "colonial victory."

Queen Elizabeth II and former prime minister Margaret Thatcher joined old warriors and widows of the fallen at the memorial chapel at Pangbourne College west of London to mark the date when British forces accepted the surrender of the Argentine army, ending a 74-day occupation. British Prime Minister Tony Blair also attended.

The conflict, which followed Argentina's seizure of the islands on April 2, 1982, cost the lives of 255 British servicemen, many of them lost at sea, and more than 600 Argentines.

"I'm filled with sadness for the boys who never came home," said Steve Kettless, 50, who was in the Parachute Regiment in the battle for Goose Green. "That's the main emotion in remembering what happened 25 years ago for me -- 25 years have gone so quickly."

Argentine President Nestor Kirchner blasted the British victory and lashed out at Thatcher for praising her former fighters. Thatcher, who dispatched a naval task force to the South Atlantic to retake the archipelago, had used a radio speech to praise her military for its conduct.

"The whole nation rejoiced at the success; and we should still rejoice," Thatcher said on the British Forces Broadcasting Service.

"Aggression was defeated and reversed. The wishes of local people were upheld as paramount. Britain's honor and interests prevailed," she said.

Kirchner, in statements carried by local news agency Diarios y Noticias, said, "The islands are Argentine" and the British victory "was a colonial victory, really unacceptable in the eyes of the world."

"I would like to say to Senora Thatcher that she may have won the battle because she belongs to a world power, but she never defeated us through the force of reason or justice," Kirchner said on the sidelines of a public event opening a suburban Buenos Aires sports complex.

Many Argentines see their country's invasion of the islands as a mistake by the nation's now-discredited former military dictators. But Argentines universally call the islands their own, insisting the British seized them by force in 1833, and Kirchner reinvoked that sovereignty claim on Thursday while insisting that the archipelago would one day be returned peacefully.

He said Las Malvinas -- as the Argentinians call the islands -- "are Argentine and by way of peace will again be Argentina's."

Unlike in Britain, no large-scale ceremonies were held in Argentina recalling the date.

The two countries renewed diplomatic ties in 1990 and agree to not to discuss the outstanding Argentine claims of sovereignty to the islands populated by English-speaking people largely of British heritage.

In a message to the 3,100 residents of the islands, the queen said the British forces had "made a stand for democracy and freedom."

"Since then, you have shown that their sacrifice was not in vain by your continued loyalty and determination to safeguard and develop your way of life in these islands," the royal message said. "This week offers you an opportunity to look back with pride on your achievements and to look forward to a prosperous future, living in freedom and governed by those whom you have chosen."

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