Blair to make history in Argentina
BRASILIA, Brazil (CNN) -- British Prime Minister Tony Blair will
make history on Wednesday as he visits Argentina.
Blair will become the first serving UK prime minister to set foot on Argentine
soil since the two countries went to war in 1982 over the South Atlantic
islands the British call the Falklands and the Argentines call Malvinas.
On Wednesday, Blair heads to Iguazu Falls on the Brazilian-Argentine border
for trilateral talks with Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso
and Argentine President Fernando de La Rua.
Then Blair and de La Rua will fly from the Brazilian side of the border
Argentine side for the historic private talks.
Blair's visit to Argentina comes nearly 20 years after the two countries
at war. The 74-day war, between April and June 1982, cost the lives
of 650 Argentines and 255 Britons.
However, British officials have made clear that
the sovereignty of the islands will not be discussed at the meeting, and that the
main topic will be trade and Argentina's financial crisis.
Trade between Argentina and Britain is worth about £400 million,
Argentine Senate this week approved drastic budget cuts in an attempt to revive
the economy and forestall investors' fears.
Although this is the first trip by a serving British prime minister since
diplomatic ties between the two countries were long since re-established. In
1998, then-Argentine President Carlos Menem made an official visit to Britain,
paying his respects at a memorial to the British servicemen who died in the war.
Two years ago, Britain's Prince Charles was welcomed in Argentina to further
ties between the two countries.
Tension surrounding the issue of the islands remains high, however. Although
Britain retook them in the war, Argentina has never renounced its claims over
the islands. The British initially declared sovereignty over them in 1833.
On Tuesday, Blair faced protests in Brazil as activists demonstrating over
sale of Amazon forest lumber to Britain broke through a security cordon
protecting him in Sao Paulo. One was wrestled to the floor and carried away.
Local news agency Agencia Estado quoted the Greenpeace's spokesman for
Amazon, Paulo Adario, as saying the protest was against what he called Blair's
failure to keep a promise to help stop illegal trading in rare, tropical wood.
Blair arrived in Brazil on Monday after visiting Jamaica and met Cardoso
talks in the capital Brasilia. Later, speaking to British and Brazilian businessmen,
he praised increasing trade among regional partners such as the European Union
and Mercosur, the South American bloc formed by Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay
In Sao Paulo, the country's financial and economic capital, Blair visited
Embraer aircraft company.
The Brazil-UK trade relationship dates back to the turn of the century,
British companies helped build Brazilian railway bridges.
Last year Brazil exported nearly $1.5 billion worth of goods to the UK,
Britain exporting $1.2 billion in goods to Brazil.
On Sunday, Blair met Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson and Caribbean
leaders on Sunday. They discussed increasing trade and cultural ties, and Blair
announced a £200,000 ($285,400) police training package to help drugs and
gang and street violence -- problems that have spilled over onto British streets.