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Clegg Rebukes Argentina Over UK Nuclear Submarines
March 27, 2012 3:59 pm
Clegg rebukes Argentina over UK submarines
By Christian Oliver in Seoul
Nick Clegg, deputy prime minister, has rebuked Argentina for making “baseless insinuations” about Britain’s nuclear submarine deployments, ratcheting up tensions over the Falkland Islands in an unusually public clash in front of more than 50 world leaders.
Speaking at a summit on nuclear security in Seoul, Héctor Timerman, Argentina’s foreign minister, levelled an attack against “the extra-regional power” which he suggested could be sending submarines into the South Atlantic in defiance of international law.
The topic was not on the agenda of the summit – which was concerned with nuclear materials falling into terrorist hands – but Mr Clegg said he felt “duty bound” to respond, saying: “These are unfounded, baseless insinuations”.
A spokesman for Mr Clegg said Mr Timerman had argued Britain was deploying submarines capable of carrying nuclear weapons in potential defiance of the Treaty of Tlatelolco, which commits states with atomic weapons to keep their warheads away from Latin America and the Caribbean.
The Argentine foreign ministry confirmed it used the summit to seek guarantees Britain was not breaking the treaty. Speaking in front of an audience that included US President Barack Obama, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and China’s Hu Jintao, Mr Clegg replied Britain ratified protocols to the Treaty of Tlatelolco in 1969 and continued to abide by its obligations.
Explore the economic and political set-up of the islands
Argentina emphasises it will not mount another invasion to seize the islands it calls Las Malvinas but says Britain’s claim is an anachronistic vestige of colonialism. London refuses to negotiate on its sovereignty over the islands, which it has controlled since 1833 and argues the inhabitants want to remain British.
Some of the increased tensions are due to Argentine fears that Buenos Aires would be cut out of hydrocarbon revenues if oil explorers discover substantial reserves off the archipelago.
Mr Timerman this month said his ministry would set up a permanent team to crack down on international oil companies involved in work there, both in international and Argentine courts.
Buenos Aires has also accused Prince William, second in line to the British throne, of carrying out a recent military deployment to the islands in “the uniform of a conqueror”.
Liberal Democrats expressed delight with Mr Clegg’s defiant stance at a high-profile international event, saying it helps them look more credible as a party of government. One senior party member said: “He should do these overseas statesman things more often.”
Additional reporting by Kiran Stacey
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