Falklands man gets Argentine birth cert in legal first

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In a legal first, a man born in the disputed Falkland islands renounced his British passport Tuesday and was given a birth certificate from Argentina, which claims the South Atlantic archipelago.

The potentially ground-breaking legal move -- presided over by President Cristina Kirchner with considerable pomp -- could stoke tensions between Argentina and Britain, which went to war over the islands in 1982.

Both London and Buenos Aires claim the windswept islands, which has a population of some 3,000 people and are located 450 kilometers (280 miles) off the Argentine coast.

Argentina has claimed the archipelago, known here as the Malvinas, since 1833.

James Peck, an artist born in the Falklands in 1968 who has lived in the Argentine capital since 2006 with his local wife, told reporters it was a decision to which he gave considerable thought.

"A lot of things went through my head," he said in Spanish. "But my life is here with my children and my friends."

Kirchner gave Peck, a fourth-generation Falklander, an Argentine birth certificate from the country's southern Tierra del Fuego province. Argentina considers the Malvinas an administrative part of the province.

Peck was just 14 when Britain and Argentina went to war over the archipelago, and the conflict is present in his artwork.

"We Argentines are peaceful people," the president said at the ceremony, urging London to sit down and negotiate over the islands' future.

Peck's birth reclassification "is setting a precedent in the nation, and in the province, so that anyone born in the territory illegally occupied by Britain can get their identification documents through our civil registry," said Tierra del Fuego Governor Fabiana Rios.

Argentina's military junta invaded the Falklands in 1982, setting off a short but bloody war that saw Britain extend its rule.

Anglo-Argentine relations were not restored until 1990, and when ambassadors were exchanged, they left aside the issue of Falklands sovereignty, agreeing only to handle "practical" issues.

Friction between Argentina and Britain has intensified since 2010, when London authorized military exercises and oil prospecting around the Falkland Islands.

Argentina, with a population topping 40 million people, has its presidential election in October.

© 2011 AFP

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