BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (Reuters) -- Argentine President Carlos
Menem and British Prime Minister Tony Blair will discuss at a meeting next
week a possible end to the arms embargo against Argentina that Britain
imposed after the 1982 Falklands War.
Foreign Minister Guido Di Tella told foreign correspondents on Tuesday
Menem's Oct. 27-Nov. 1 visit to Britain would allow Argentina to convey its
position that the weapons ban is so inappropriate it is "comic."
A British embassy spokesman said arms sales were "one of the areas for
negotiation in the meeting between Menem and Blair."
One diplomat close to preparations for the visit, the first by an Argentine
president to Britain since the 10-week war in the South Atlantic, said it
could produce a breakthrough.
"There could be an agreement to drop the term 'embargo' and replace it
an export license control regime, like Britain has with the rest of the world,"
the diplomat said.
Britain maintains a 2,000-member garrison on the islands which Argentina
calls the Malvinas and has claimed as its own for 165 years. In 1982 the
military junta then in power sent troops to enforce the claim, but they were
dislodged by a British expeditionary force.
Britain and Argentina restored diplomatic links eight years ago and put
dispute under a diplomatic "umbrella" while forging ahead with business
links, which have flourished.
Menem, who promised to recover the islands by 2000, is expected to
repeat that claim to Blair.
Britain's initial position was that the visit, to include lunch with Queen
Elizabeth, was "not the occasion" to discuss the Falklands. But Britain now
accepts it is on the agenda.
"We agreed it was a delicate issue but one which could not be left out.
easy to deal with because we will repeat our known historical position and
the British will reply with their known historical position," said Di Tella.
But the minister will tell London the arms embargo "appears comic to us"
when Argentina is a special non-NATO ally of the United States and a
mainstay of United Nations peacekeeping.
"The United States, which I understand has good relations with Britain,
declared us a non-NATO ally. I suppose then that the United States does
not consider us a very dangerous country. We see no reason why you
should think so," he said.
British Deputy Foreign Minister Tony Lloyd, asked about the embargo on
recent visit, said, "None of those factors can underestimate the fact that we
did have an extremely bloody conflict in the islands in 1982."
Di Tella said the visit was a sign of reconciliation and that Menem's first
a wreath-laying at Britain's Falklands War memorial on Oct. 28, symbolised
the thaw in relations.
Armed forces chiefs and veterans from both sides will be present. "I'm
usually a great fan of wreaths but in this case the flowers mean something
very deep," said Di Tella.
Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.