British Embassy

Argentina's President Cristina Fernadez tosses carnations into the Beagle Channel at a ceremony marking the 30th anniversary of hte start of the Falkland conflict near the war memorial in Ushuaia Argentina on Monday

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

USHUAIA, Argentina — Argentina’s president said Monday that she’s asked the International Red Cross to persuade Britain to let its DNA experts identify unknown soldiers buried in the Falkland Islands.

Thirty years after Argentina and Britain went to war over the remote South Atlantic archipelago, Cristina Fernandez says universal human rights demand that both countries work together to give those remains back to their families.

Her much-anticipated speech on the anniversary of Argentina’s April 2, 1982 invasion of the islands was focused on promoting dialogue and understanding. She said her government sets a global standard for protecting human rights and vowed to “respect the interests of the islanders” as Argentina seeks to peacefully regain control.

“We don’t have war drums, nor do we wear military helmets. Our only helmets are those of construction workers, working for the inclusion of all,” she said at the city’s Monument to the Fallen, honoring the 649 Argentines who died in the conflict.

Despite attention-grabbing images of protesters burning a Union Jack flag outside the British embassy, polls show zero appetite among Argentines for a military solution.

Prime Minister David Cameron said in London earlier Monday that Britain had to come to the islanders’ defense in 1982, and will do so again if anyone tries to deprive them of their liberty. The 74-day occupation ended when British troops routed the ill-prepared Argentines in hard-fought trench warfare. In all, 255 British soldiers and three islanders were killed.

Fernandez called Cameron’s statement absurd and ridiculous, noting that Argentines were also deprived of their liberty at the time, living under a 1976-1983 dictatorship, supported by outside powers, that had kidnapped and killed thousands of its own people.

“I am proud of having made promoting human rights one of the pillars of our state,” she said. For this reason, it’s impossible to consider that Argentina would not also protect the rights of the 3,000 islanders, she argued.

Britain has refused Argentina’s repeated calls to negotiate the islands’ sovereignty, saying it’s up to the islanders to decide. Before, during and after the 1982 conflict, the islanders have overwhelmingly said they want to maintain British protection.

For about a year now, Argentina has been intensifying its campaign to pressure Britain into sovereignty talks, a theme it pushes in every international forum. Argentina’s historical claim to the islands Latin America knows as Las Malvinas has support across the region, and got moral backing last week from a group of Nobel Peace Prize winners who scolded Britain for ignoring U.N. resolutions urging talks.

Argentina has closed off shipping routes and air space. Unions have refused to unload British cargo or accept British-flagged cruise ships. Fernandez’s ministers have sought to close off British imports, sue British investors and banks, and block oil development.

It adds up to an “economic war” that has made life difficult, but Argentina seems to be running out of leverage and is no closer to recovering the territory that fell under British control in 1833, said Dick Sawle, a member of Falkland Islands legislative assembly.

“I think that Brazil, Uruguay and Chile will see what they’re missing in the Falklands, and at that point it just becomes a lot of shouting across the water that can be ignored,” Sawle added.

As for identifying the war dead, Sawle said last month that his government would await a formal proposal before commenting.

While the president explicitly sought to reassure islanders several times in Monday’s speech, feelings on both sides have hardened.

“Penguin News” Editor Lisa Watson said she tries to find the right tone as she responds to hate mail through public Twitter messages. But it didn’t help when Argentines discovered that the newspaper’s photo of Fernandez had been saved under a crude insult.

“It never occurred to us that the filename would be so transparent. It was hugely embarrassing, particularly now as we were seemingly winning the image war,” Watson’s colleague John Fowler said. “Before that, Lisa had been pretty continuously receiving hundreds and hundreds of nasty sexually insulting messages a day.”

Argentina has variously tried to charm, occupy, negotiate and threaten its way back into the islands. In the 1970s, it established a direct air link with Buenos Aires, supplied them with gasoline and paid to educate island children. For Britain, the island had become a burden; it was pushing islanders to accept a Hong Kong-style handover before the junta decided to invade.

For many islanders and Argentines, those 74 days of armed occupation provided their only glimpse of each others’ lives.

Other attempts to build ties in the 1990s included agreements on shared fishing and oil rights, shipping and air links and other exchanges, but nearly all were abandoned under Fernandez and her late husband Nestor Kirchner, who have sought to isolate the islands instead.

“Thirty years and now we find it again, we are worried we are going to go through it all again, another invasion,” islander Mary Lou Agman said at a Sunday march by the small Falkland Islands Defense Force.

Islanders should relax, because another invasion will never happen, said James Peck, an islander with dual Falklands-Argentine nationality after marrying an Argentine and moving to Buenos Aires, said he saw the pre-anniversary war of words “fueling itself and becoming hysterical.”

“Someone has to speak out for common sense,” he said. “For me Argentina has real dignity these days, and I’m amazed that grown up politicians cannot sit down and talk civilly to each other. I think that’s really sad. Not everybody’s getting stoked up by all this.”

Riot police outside the British embassy fired tear gas and blue-painted water from a cannon at protesters wielding slingshots and throwing bottles of burning liquid. But outside this small group, Argentines from across the political spectrum endorsed the pacifist response.

“The soveriegnty campaign seems correct to me. I don’t think there’s any other road but the diplomatic one, although I don’t have confidence in anything this government does,” said Martin Dhers, who joined a solemn crowd outside the Buenos Aires war memorial.

Yearning for common ground, several veterans were holding a quiet ceremony at the Argentine war cemetery in the islands, on a lonely bluff near the scene of one of the most intense battles.

“To return to this little piece of land, which for me is a little bit of my country and apart from that, being here is so pleasing, to be among the people that were once our enemies, that which we can now live together with — it’s just really proof that we human beings are not like animals,” said Juan Carlos Lujan.

Dozens of hard-line Iranian students stormed the British embassy in Tehran bringing down the Union Jack flag and throwing documents from windows on Tuesday in scenes reminiscent of the anger against Western powers after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

TEHRAN, Iran — Hard-line Iranian protesters stormed British diplomatic compounds Tuesday, hauling down the Union Jack, torching an embassy vehicle and pelting buildings with petrol bombs in what began as an apparent state-approved show of anger over the latest Western sanctions to punish Tehran for defiance over its nuclear program.

The hours-long assault on the British Embassy and a residential complex for staff — in chaotic scenes reminiscent of the seizing of the U.S. Embassy in 1979 — could push already frayed diplomatic ties toward the breaking point.

Iran’s parliament approved a bill Sunday to downgrade relations with Britain, one of America’s closest allies with diplomatic envoys in the Islamic Republic.

Calling Tuesday’s attack “outrageous and indefensible,” British Prime Minister David Cameron said that Iran’s failure to defend the embassy and its staff was a disgrace and would have “serious consequences.”

The late-afternoon demonstration outside the British Embassy was organized by pro-government groups at universities and Islamic seminaries, and could not have taken place without official sanction. However, such anti-Western rallies often draw ultraconservative factions such as the basiji, a paramilitary group run by the powerful Revolutionary Guard that is directly controlled by Iran’s ruling theocracy.

“Death to England!” some cried outside the compound in the first significant assault of a foreign diplomatic area in Iran in years.

Chants called for the closure of the embassy and called it a “spy den” — the same phrase used after militants stormed the U.S. Embassy in Tehran after the 1979 Islamic Revolution and held 52 hostages for 444 days. In the early moments of that siege, protesters tossed out papers from the compound and pulled down the U.S. flag. Washington and Tehran have had no diplomatic relations since then.

Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague downplayed suggestions of a hostage situation, saying there had been “confusing” reports coming out of Iran.

By nightfall — more than three hours after the assaults began — Iranian authorities appeared to have regained control of both British compounds. Riot police surrounded the embassy compound and officials said all protesters were driven out.

But sporadic clashes persisted, including some where police fired tear gas to disperse crowds, according to Fars, a semo-official Iranian news agency. Some protesters were arrested, it said.

The rally outside the British Embassy — on a main street in downtown Tehran about a mile from the former U.S. Embassy — included protesters carrying photographs of nuclear scientist Majid Shahriari, who was killed last year in an attack that Iran blamed on Israeli and British spy services.

The U.S. and many allies fear that Iran’s nuclear program could eventually lead to nuclear weapons. Tehran says it only seeks reactors for energy and research, but will not give up the technology to make its own nuclear fuel.

Meanwhile on Monday, the U.S., Britain and Canada announced more sanctions intended to further isolate Iran’s economy.

A senior U.S. official has dismissed Iran’s threats against NATO missile defense installations in Turkey ahead of a visit by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden to the key U.S. ally and linchpin of NATO’s southern flank.

Under the NATO plans, a limited system of U.S. anti-missile interceptors and radars already planned for Europe — to include interceptors in Romania and Poland as well as the radar in Turkey — would be linked to expanded European-owned missile defenses. That would create a broad system that protects every NATO country against medium-range missile attack.

Printed on Wednesday, November 30, 2011 as: Iranian students sack British embassy