April 2, 2002

Argentina marks 20th anniversary of Falkland Islands war

President vows to pursue claims through diplomatic channels

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) --As thousands of war veterans looked on,
President Eduardo Duhalde insisted Tuesday that Argentina would one day reclaim
the Falkland Islands through diplomacy -- not by waging war.

"They're ours and we're going to recover them," he said at a ceremony marking the
20th anniversary of the war Argentina lost to Britain for control of the South Atlantic

Argentina contends it inherited the remote islands, populated by about 2,200 people
of mostly British ancestry, from the Spanish crown before they were occupied by
Britain in 1833.

Duhalde laid a wreath in the icy waters off Ushuaia, 1,500 miles south of Buenos
Aires, and talked of pursuing Argentina's long-standing claims to the islands through
diplomatic channels.

"We'll do it not by going to war but with solidarity and the support of our sister
nations that have long supported our claims," Duhalde said, addressing more than
2,000 veterans.

"There is no stronger claim to possession than one stained with blood," Duhalde

Argentina invaded the islands -- an archipelago about 300 miles off the South
American coast that is home to 2,000 sheep-farming colonists -- on April 2, 1982. In
response, Britain dispatched a naval task force, and the ensuing 10-week war killed
712 Argentines, 255 Britons and three islanders.

Argentine forces surrendered on June 14, which is commemorated as Liberation
Day by the islanders.

In Britain, the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair held no public events
Tuesday to mark the anniversary of the invasion. One private ceremony was
conducted, during which veterans and relatives of soldiers who died in the Falklands
began building a small stone monument in their honor at Pangbourn College in
Berkshire, England.

Argentina and England restored diplomatic relations in 1990. Both nations, for now,
have put aside their differences over the islands, known here as Las Malvinas.

In Argentina, the Falklands defeat helped hastened the end of the country's 1976-83
military dictatorship and left an indelible mark on a long history of ties between
Argentina and England.

War veterans from around the country traveled for days -- many in buses -- to
attend the ceremony in Ushuaia. Some called Tuesday's tribute by Duhalde
long-overdue government recognition for the veterans.

Many of the returning soldiers in 1982 complained they were given an cool reception
by the military government of the era.

"People have forgotten about us," said Marcel Micele, a war veteran at a Buenos
Aires house where former soldiers frequently gather.

He said he hoped the war's remembrance and the lessons learned could serve as a
rallying point for Argentines, now suffering through one of the country's worst
economic crises.

"In times like these, the Malvinas has come back once again and we see that when
we give talks in schools the issue of the islands can be inspiring," he said.

But some events marking the conflict also showed how divisive the decision to go to
war with England still is.

On Monday night, veterans carrying candles and white crosses with the names of
fallen Argentine soldiers marched in protest outside the home of former president
Gen. Leopoldo Galtieri, the head of the military junta that led Argentina to war.

But most Argentines appear to have tried to put the war behind them.

"It's a thing of the past, we've got more pressing problems now," said Sergio Paso, a
32-year-old architect, referring to a four-year-old economic crisis now garnering

 Copyright 2002 The Associated Press.