October 28, 1998

Argentina's Menem honors  British soldiers killed in Falklands

                  LONDON (CNN) -- As Argentine and British veterans of the Falklands War
                  looked on, Argentine President Carlos Menem took a step toward reconciliation
                  Wednesday by laying a wreath in memory of Britain's war dead from the 1982 conflict.

                  The ceremony opened Menem's six-day visit to Britain for official talks that
                  will focus on trade and investment.

                  Britain has said it will not discuss the still disputed sovereignty of the South
                  Atlantic's Falkland Islands during the visit.

                  At St. Paul's Cathedral, Menem placed a blue and white wreath of flowers
                  -- representing Argentina's national colors -- at the foot of a black marble
                  plaque listing the names of the 252 British servicemen who died during the

                  About 750 Argentines also died during their country's unsuccessful attempt to take
                  over the British-controlled islands.

                  The simple 15-minute ceremony was attended by British Foreign Secretary
                  Robin Cook and veterans of the Falklands War from both countries. Among the
                  veterans was Prince Andrew, a combat helicopter pilot during the war.

                  Menem, who is accompanied on the trip by his daughter Zulema, lunched at
                  Buckingham Palace with Queen Elizabeth and delivered a keynote address
                  at Lancaster House in central London.

                  Menem restates claim to islands

                  During the speech, Menem hailed the "excellent bonds" between the two
                  countries and said he came to Britain in the spirit of reconciliation.

                  But he added that Argentina would not give up its 165-year claim to the
                  Falkland Islands, which lie about 300 miles off its coast.

                  "As president of Argentina, I repeat we are fully convinced of the
                  legitimacy of out historical rights," Menem said.

                 "I reaffirm solemnly that my country rejects the use of, or the threat of,
                  armed force to solve this conflict," he said.

                  Menem instead called for both governments to work toward "practical
                  agreements" on the status of the islands.

                  Argentina eager to attract investment

                  Trade links between Britain and Argentina have grown vigorously over the
                  past few years. British exports to Argentina increased almost 50 percent last
                  year to about $800 million dollars.

                  Eager to attract more investment, Menem brought a large contingent of
                  Argentine lawmakers and businessmen with him on the trip.

                  In a speech to British business executives, Menem said that today's
                  Argentina was a vastly differently country from the one which went to
                  war with Britain.

                  Menem's visit is the first to Britain by an Argentine leader since 1960.

                  He is scheduled to meet with British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Thursday.

                   CNN Correspondent Richard Blystone and Reuters contributed to this