Kirchner pleads for talks at stormy UN meeting on Falklands

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Argentina's President Cristina Kirchner on Thursday demanded that Britain discuss sovereignty of the Falkland Islands at a stormy UN meeting on the 30th anniversary of the end of a war over the disputed territory.

But Argentina's Foreign Minister Hector Timerman refused to accept a letter from the Falklands government offering talks after Kirchner's speech to the UN decolonization committee.

Kirchner made a high-profile appearance at what is considered a fairly low-level UN committee to challenge Britain, which has steadfastly refused contacts on sovereignty.

"We are not asking anyone to say yes, the Malvinas belong to Argentina," Kirchner said, using the Spanish name for the British-ruled islands. "We are asking no more, no less than to sit down and talk."

The Argentine president also alleged that Britain had in 1974 secretly proposed a deal under which the Falklands could have become jointly governed.

After Kirchner's speech, Falklands legislator Mike Summers could not get close to Kirchner to hand over a letter offering talks with the Falklands government.

Argentina's Foreign Minister Hector Timerman refused to take the letter as he left the UN hall, telling Summers to "send it to my embassy."

Kirchner sat stony-faced through a speech by Summers to the committee in which he said Argentina wanted to "air-brush" the Falklands population away from the windswept South Atlantic islands.

Summers and another legislator, Roger Edwards, both berated the renewed diplomatic campaign by Buenos Aires to secure sovereignty of the islands, which the Argentine military invaded and occupied for 74 days in 1982.

"Are we in any way less human; are we second class people with unequal rights, just because we are not Hispanic? Or are we insignificant because we are too few, free to be abused by a bigger bullying neighbor?" Summers told the UN committee.

"Of course we are not, and as much as Argentina might like to air-brush us out of existence, to satisfy its unjustified lust for our land, such behavior belongs to another era and should not be tolerated in this modern world," he added.

Alejandro Betts, an Argentine who left the islands after the 1982 war, told the committee that Britain illegally and undemocratically occupied the islands and controlled its government.

Kirchner also held talks with UN leader Ban Ki-moon who "acknowledged the strong regional support for this issue and reiterated that his good offices to resolve this dispute remain available if the parties are willing to engage," said UN spokesman Martin Nesirky.