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Wednesday, 1 August, 2001, 13:38 GMT 14:38 UK
Falklands war haunts Blair visit
British troops on the Falklands
Most Argentines want their flag to fly over the Falklands one day
By Tom Gibb in Buenos Aires

The UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, will be the first British leader to visit Argentina since the Falklands war which ended 18 years ago, leaving more than 900 dead on both sides.

The two countries have now normalised relations . But Argentina still claims sovereignty over the islands - something Britain is not willing to negotiate.


Any visit is welcome, whether it is to my home, which is Argentina - or to my house. The war is over now - it is past - we should put grudges aside and look for friendship

Said Moassed

The Buenos Aires suburb of Bamfield is named after the Englishman who built the railway that runs through it.

Next to the station live a family whose son, Mearcelo Moassed, lies buried on the Falklands, where he died fighting the British.

Mearcelo's mother Dalal remembers vividly when he went to war.

"The day we said goodbye - which was a night in April - he was very happy. If I had said then 'come back home now' - he would not have come because he was full of enthusiasm.

"Of course, then he had no idea what the outcome would be. We try to understand all this in the most positive way - but the pain is still there."

Mearcelo was buried on the islands and his parents have twice travelled to visit his grave.

Putting enmity aside

Despite his loss, Mearcelo's father Said says it is time to put enmity aside and welcome Tony Blair - even if the future of the islands are not on the agenda.

"Any visit is welcome, whether it is to my home - which is Argentina - or to my house. The war is over now - it is past - we should put grudges aside and look for friendship.

Click here for map of Falklands

"I think that one day by diplomacy we might see our flag flying on the island - that is what we hope."

More immediately, he and the families of others who died would like to erect a memorial cross in the graveyard where his son is buried - but he says this has met with resistance from the islanders.

Tony Blair
Blair's visit is unpalatable to some Argentine war veterans
At the Malvinas Veterans association in Buenos Aires, the soldiers who were sent ill-equipped to fight on a wave of nationalist enthusiasm, find the visit of a British Prime Minister who will not be talking about the war much harder to stomach.

They are planning protests to demand Tony Blair negotiate the issue of sovereignty.

Ruben Rada of the Malvinas Veterans association, says: "You British have a Queen - but for the Argentine people the Malvinas are our queen. We will always defend her. That's why there was a war. We will keep struggling - by peaceful means - to get the islands back. This will be passed on to our children and grandchildren."

Economic crisis

For new generations, however, recovering the islands is a much lower priority.

Argentine demo
For young people the economy is the new focus of protest

With factories closing, economic crisis and the highest unemployment in the country's history, most would rather concentrate on the present.

"It could be a big issue if a political figure made it an issue to get the vote from the people and to say we are winning back the Malvinas. But, if not, nobody cares, because what is it the Malvinas? It's not an economic boom that can give you a better situation, it's just a political issue," said one young Argentine.

Bad memories

Another young Argentine said the war was just a bad memory:

"Most of the people and the boys who went to the war, they were very, very young, like 17, 18, and there were some people who died. That's why people remember, but not because of the land or anything."


For the Argentine people the Malvinas are our queen. We will always defend her. That's why there was a war. We will keep struggling - by peaceful means - to get the islands back

Ruben Rada, Malvinas Veterans Association

Each morning the Argentine flag is raised above the memorial for the servicemen who died during the war.

Almost all Argentines would one day like to see their flag also flying over the islands they call the Malvinas - perhaps, some say, alongside a British flag.

But the war itself is remembered as a tragic misadventure by unpopular military rulers which many supported at the time - but most would now rather forget.




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The BBC's Tom Gibb
"For newer generations recovering the islands is not a priority"
See also:

01 Aug 01 | UK Politics
Blair set for Argentina talks
27 Jul 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Argentina
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