Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point
On Air
Low Graphics

Monday, November 2, 1998 Published at 01:10 GMT

UK Politics

Row over 'Falklands talks' comment

President Menem: Visit ended as it began - in controversy

Argentine President Carlos Menem has provoked controversy on the final day of his visit to the UK with a claim that Prime Minister Tony Blair is ready to discuss the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands.

The disputed islands continued to hold centre stage in Anglo-Argentine relations as Mr Menem told the Buenos Aires Clarin newspaper that negotiations could begin in three years.

Mr Menem said on the final day of his official visit to the UK that Mr Blair's government had a "predisposition to open talks on the subject in the near future".

'Astonishing statement'

The comments flatly contradict Mr Blair's insistence that the six-day visit - the first by an Argentine head of state since 1960 - would not include any discussions about sovereignty.

Shadow Foreign Secretary Michael Howard was quick to make political capital out of the controversy, calling the talks claim "an astonishing statement".

[ image: President Menem pays his respects]
President Menem pays his respects
"The prime minister should give a full explanation as to how President Menem could have obtained the impression that Britain is prepared to negotiate on the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands," he said.

"I shall be putting a question to him on the subject at the earliest opportunity."

Downing Street responded that there was no substance in what Mr Menem had said.

A spokesman said: "It was made clear at the talks earlier this week that sovereignty was not a matter for negotiation."

Mr Menem also said he hoped one day to visit the islands, which Argentines call the Malvinas.

Falklands visit

"The acceptance we had in Britain was truly exceptional, not only on the part of the authorities, but on the part of the people," he said.

"This really gives me pause to believe that visiting the islands is possible."

There has been suggestion by some political commentators that Mr Menem's provocative words have been used as a "parting shot".

The Sun newspaper claimed, prior to the president's visit, that he had said "sorry" for the Argentine invasion of the Falkland Islands and the ensuing 10-week war in 1982, in which the UK reclaimed the South Atlantic archipelago.

Mr Menem immediately denied that he had apologised, and is known to have been highly embarrassed by the suggestion.

During his visit, Mr Menem sought reconciliation over the conflict that claimed 250 British and 750 Argentine lives by laying a wreath at St Paul's Cathedral in London.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

UK Politics Contents

A-Z of Parliament
Talking Politics
Vote 2001

Relevant Stories

29 Oct 98 | UK
Blair may relax arms embargo

28 Oct 98 | UK
Falklands veterans lay past to rest

28 Oct 98 | UK
Menem remembers Falklands dead

27 Oct 98 | UK
Menem gets red carpet treatment

27 Oct 98 | Americas
Profile: Carlos Menem

27 Oct 98 | UK
Menem to 'build bridges for the future'

25 Oct 98 | UK
Carlos Menem: Dialogue but no argument

25 Oct 98 | UK
Falklands not on agenda

Internet Links

Argentine Presidency

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Livingstone hits back

Catholic monarchy ban 'to continue'

Hamilton 'would sell mother'

Straw on trial over jury reform

Blairs' surprise over baby

Conceived by a spin doctor?

Baby cynics question timing

Blair in new attack on Livingstone

Week in Westminster

Chris Smith answers your questions

Reid quits PR job

Children take over the Assembly

Two sword lengths

Industry misses new trains target