Prince William to deploy to Falklands next year

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Britain's Prince William will deploy on a tour of duty to the Falkland Islands next year, the Royal Air Force said Thursday, ahead of the 30th anniversary of a war with Argentina over the archipelago.

The 29-year-old search and rescue helicopter pilot, who is the second in line to the throne, will spend six weeks in the disputed islands in the South Atlantic Ocean in February and March, the RAF said in a statement.

There was no immediate reaction from Argentina, which also lays claim to the islands.

"The RAF can confirm that Flight Lieutenant William Wales, Search and Rescue Co-pilot, 22 Squadron, RAF Valley will complete a routine deployment to the Falkland Islands... during the period February to March 2012," it said.

"This deployment forms part of a normal squadron crew rotation and will form part of Flight Lieutenant Wales' training and career progression as a Search and Rescue pilot within the RAF."

He will be part of a four-person crew.

RAF rules mean that William, 29 will not be joined by his wife Catherine on the posting to the windswept islands.

"It is conventional that deployments to the Falklands for all SAR (search and rescue) helicopter pilots are unaccompanied," it said.

It also said that he would "not be completing any ceremonial roles as the Duke of Cambridge", his official title, adding that a six-week deployment to the Falklands was normal for pilots at his stage of his career.

Britain has controlled the Falkland Islands since 1833. Buenos Aires considers them an occupied part of Argentina.

On April 2, 1982, Argentina's then ruling junta invaded the islands. They surrendered on June 14 -- exactly one week before William was born.

The conflict, in which William's uncle Prince Andrew served as a Sea King helicopter co-pilot, cost the lives of 649 Argentine and 255 British troops.

William's father is heir to the throne Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, and his mother was the late Diana, princess of Wales, who died in a car crash in Paris in 1997.

William and Catherine, who tied the knot at London's Westminster Abbey in April, are currently living on the island of Anglesey, northwest Wales, where William is posted at the RAF Valley base.

He has previously expressed frustration that he has been unable to see action in conflict theatres that Britain is involved in such as Afghanistan, where his younger brother Prince Harry has served.

Britain has around 1,000 military personnel on the Falklands to ensure their security.

The territory has been at the heart of renewed diplomatic bickering since the start of oil and gas exploration there last year.

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

Argentine President Cristina Kirchner said Cameron's comments were an "expression of mediocrity and almost of stupidity".

In September foreign ministers of the Group of 77 developing countries and China urged Britain to renew talks on the islands.

© 2011 AFP

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