Argentina warns Britain over Falklands nationality switch

21st June 2011, Comments 0 comments

Argentina's foreign minister said Tuesday that Britain will be to blame if "fanatics" carry out death threats against the first Falkland islander to take up Argentine nationality.

The minister, Hector Timerman, took up the case of James Peck at the annual UN debate on the South Atlantic islands where political leaders from the territory accused Argentina of using "bully boy" tactics.

Peck has become a national hero in Argentina after accepting citizenship so he can be closer to his children who live with his estranged Argentine wife.

His gesture has enraged some in the Falklands which was the venue of a brief war in 1982 when Britain sent a task force to end an Argentine invasion.

"I am forced to denounce the criminal attitude of fanatics that have made death threats against James if he dared to return to the Malvinas islands," Timerman said using the Spanish name for the islands.

"We hold the British authorities who illegally occupy the islands responsible for the security of Argentine citizen James Peck if he decides to exercise his rights to return," the minister told the UN General Assembly's decolonization committee.

Peck, 42, this week expressed shock at the reaction to his move. "I've had messages saying that if I go back I'll be shot," he told The Times of London newspaper from his home in Buenos Aires.

Peck separated from his Argentine wife 18 months ago and said he wanted to live near his children but found that was complicated because of his British passport.

President Cristina Kirchner gave him an Argentine national identity card on June 14 at a ceremony to mark the 29th anniversary of the Falklands conflict.

At the UN hearing, Timerman reaffirmed Argentina's claim to the islands which has caused new diplomatic bickering between London and Buenos Aires.

British Prime Minister David Cameron last week insisted that the islands would remain British territory as long as they wanted "full stop, end of story."

Kirchner hit back, describing the comments as a "gesture of mediocrity" and "almost stupidity."

The UN decolonization committee has debated the Falkland islands each year since a 1965 resolution which called on the countries to reach a peaceful settlement.

Falkland islands politicians at the UN hearing accused Argentina of trying to undermine the islands' economy by banning charter flights to the islands through Argentine territory and legalizing sanctions against oil and fishing companies dealing with the Falklands.

"These are the actions of a bully-boy that has lost the fight and now is attempting to gain by political pressure what he failed to do by force," said Falklands legislative assembly member Dick Sawle.

© 2011 AFP

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