Falklands War: UK and Argentina mark invasion 30 years on

Families and veterans have gathered for services to mark the conflict

Argentina's president has described the UK's control over the Falkland Islands as unjust, as services are held in both Britain and Argentina to mark the 30th anniversary of the start of the war.

Cristina Fernandez described the UK's stance as "absurd", but urged peace.

UK PM David Cameron said the day should remember the dead from both countries.

A total of 255 British servicemen and about 650 Argentines died after the UK sent a task force following the Argentine invasion on 2 April 1982.

In a statement, Mr Cameron also said that he remained committed to upholding British sovereignty over the islands.

Meanwhile, the Royal Navy has confirmed one of its newest warships, HMS Dauntless, will leave the UK on Wednesday for a six-month routine deployment in the South Atlantic.

Britain has controlled the Falklands since 1833 but Argentina claims the territory - which it calls the Malvinas - saying it inherited rights to them from Spain.

Day for reflection

British veterans of the war - and relatives of those who died - paid their respects at Britain's National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.

President Fernandez: "It is an injustice that in the 21st Century there are still colonial enclaves"

A single candle was lit as a gesture to mark the anniversary. It will remain alight for 74 days - the length of the conflict.

Anglican priest the Rev Vic Van Den Bergh told the service they had come together to pray for peace between the UK and Argentina and to remember the fallen - including the three Falkland Islanders who died in the conflict.

In his statement, Mr Cameron said: "Thirty years ago today the people of the Falkland Islands suffered an act of aggression that sought to rob them of their freedom and their way of life.

"Today is a day for commemoration and reflection: a day to remember all those who lost their lives in the conflict - the members of our armed forces, as well as the Argentinian personnel who died."

At the scene

The mood at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire was a sombre one, of remembrance and reflection on the events of 30 years ago that changed so many lives forever.

There was no sense of triumphalism, just a quiet acknowledgement that those who were sent to the Falklands as part of the British Taskforce did their duty, and did it well - though many paid the highest price.

Thirty years to the day - and almost to the hour after the Falkland Islands surrendered to the Argentinian invaders - Margaret Allen lit a candle in the chapel here, which will burn until June 14th, the day the islands were liberated.

Her husband Able Seaman Iain Boldy was killed just two weeks after their wedding. As she lit the candle, she says she thought of his face and the last time they saw each other before he set sail.

All here today say they feel that sending the Taskforce was right, and that liberating the Falklands was worth it despite the sacrifices.

Many veterans and some of the families have visited the Falklands and spoken to the islanders, while some veterans have also met their former Argentinian foe.

In contrast to the sabre-rattling between the two governments, the veterans say they bear no animosity towards those they found themselves fighting in 1982 - just a sympathy and a certain empathy for the young Argentinian men who were also sent to the Falklands all those years ago, and suffered even heavier losses during the 74 day campaign.

Mr Cameron saluted the "heroism" of the soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines who took part in the operation which freed the islanders from Argentine rule and said the UK played a role in "righting a profound wrong".

He said: "Britain remains staunchly committed to upholding the right of the Falkland Islanders, and of the Falkland Islanders alone, to determine their own future.

"That was the fundamental principle that was at stake 30 years ago: and that is the principle which we solemnly reaffirm today."

Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner gave a speech at the southern port of Ushuaia, where crowds gathered to remember the Argentine servicemen who died.

The president paid tribute to the "hundreds who came to fight here, to this territory, to the islands, and to the hundreds who laid down their lives".

'Usurping environment'

She attacked the UK government's stance on the Falkland Islands, saying: "Every day that goes by it looks more ridiculous, more absurd to the eyes of the world."

President Kirchner went on: "It is an injustice that in the 21st Century there are still colonial enclaves... 16 colonial enclaves throughout the world - 10 of those belonging to the United Kingdom."

She added: "We also demand that so they stop usurping our environment, our natural resources, our oil."

But she said that "wars only bring backwardness and hatred" and said the government supported peace.

The president said she had written to the International Red Cross to urge the UK to "take necessary measures" to identify unknown soldiers from both countries who are buried in the Falkland Islands.

Argentinian ceremony in Ushuaia Argentines pay their respects at a memorial in the port of Ushuaia

Before she arrived in Ushuaia, about 5,000 people, including Argentine veterans, held a vigil for the fallen.

Army veteran Carlos Alberto Latorre said he saw himself as one of the "Malvinas combatants" and it was important for him to be there to educate Argentines about what happened during the conflict, Reuters reported.

He said he could see younger generations also believed Argentina had a rightful claim to the islands, and this gave him the strength to continue.

Meanwhile, members of left-wing political group Quebracho burning a union jack and an effigy of Prince William, who was deployed to the territory in March, during a demonstration near the British embassy in Buenos Aires.

British Falklands War veteran Simon Weston, who was badly injured when his ship Sir Galahad was attacked, told the BBC he did not believe that Argentina's military capability was as strong a threat as it was at the time of the initial conflict.

Abandoned Argentine helmets

The Falklands War

  • 2 April: Argentine forces invade Falkland Islands. Other British South Atlantic territories including South Georgia are seized shortly afterwards
  • 5 April: A British task force of more than 100 ships sets sail for the South Atlantic
  • 25 April: South Georgia is recaptured by British forces.
  • 2 May: Argentine cruiser General Belgrano sunk by HMS Conqueror, killing more than 320
  • 21 May: Three thousand British troops begin landing at San Carlos on East Falkland
  • 28-29 May: British forces recapture Goose Green.
  • 8 June: British landing craft are bombed at Fitzroy, killing more than 50 men
  • 13 June: Argentine positions on mountains overlooking the capital Port Stanley are taken
  • 14 June: Argentine forces surrender. British troops march into Stanley

255 British servicemen and three Falklands civilians died during the conflict. The number of Argentine dead is estimated at about 650

Richard Jones, whose son Craig was the last soldier to be killed in the conflict, said those who lived on the islands identified themselves as British.

"They're not Latin American, they've got nothing really in common with the Argentines. They are as British stock as we or anybody else. They want to remain - they don't want to be part of Argentina, and that was what the war was all about," he said.

Argentina has asked for negotiations about sovereignty, but the British government says it will not discuss the issue without the agreement of the islanders.

Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne said although the relationship with Argentina "was somewhat fraught", the UK was not entirely friendless in Latin America, while Defence Secretary Phillip Hammond said the UK had "the assets, people and equipment" in place to robustly defend the Falkland Islands.

In a statement, shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy said there was no evidence the Falkland Islanders wished to change their nationality and added: "Something more important than the Empire's legacy was and is at stake: the universal right to self-determination and our belief that diplomatic dispute should be resolved by democracy rather than the uptake of arms."

London has accused Buenos Aires of trying to impose an economic blockade on the islanders, after it banned Falklands-flagged ships from docking in its ports, as well as those of other countries which are members of the Mercosur trading block.

On Monday Downing Street also dismissed Argentina's threat to take legal action against companies involved in oil exploration in the islands.

The prime minister's official spokesman said: "We are a big investor in that country. We think they are acting against their interests if people are attacking shops and branches of banks in Argentina."

The candle is lit at the National Arboretum

Argentina has complained about what it calls British "militarisation" in the south Atlantic.

BBC world affairs editor John Simpson said while a new armed conflict remained unlikely, Argentina was now using diplomatic weapons to push its claim over the Falklands.

The defeat of the Argentine forces led directly to the collapse of the military dictatorship led by Gen Leopoldo Galtieri, who was later jailed in Buenos Aires for "incompetence" during the war.

The British prime minister at the time was Margaret Thatcher, but she is not expected to play a part in the commemoration of the 30th anniversary because of ill-health.

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