Argentine President Cristina Fernandez. Photo Reuters
Britain has summoned Argentina's ambassador to London
after masked men ransacked the offices of a shipping company in
Buenos Aires, a move the Foreign Office alleged was aimed at
deterring ships from visiting the disputed Falkland Islands.
The Foreign Office said the shipping firm, agents for a
cruise company, had been attacked on November 19, causing the
cancellation of a planned visit to the islands some 482km off
Argentine President Cristina Fernandez has launched a
wide-ranging diplomatic offensive to try to assert
Argentina's claim to the islands 30 years after the Falklands
war, angering Britain which says the islanders want to
continue to be governed by London.
The Foreign Office, which labelled the shipping office
incident a "violent act of intimidation", said it had
summoned Alicia Castro, Argentina's envoy to London, after
earlier invitations had been ignored.
A British official with knowledge of the matter said Britain
was concerned it had not received assurances that
British-linked firms would not be attacked again. The
official said Britain was also worried the attackers may have
had state backing.
"It is shameful that elements within a large country like
Argentina should seek to strangle the economy of a small
group of islands. Such action benefits nobody and only
condemns those who lend it support," the Foreign Office said
in a statement.
"We were disappointed that it was necessary formally to
summon the ambassador into the Foreign Office. We made
several attempts to arrange for a less formal meeting, each
of which the Argentine embassy declined," the statement said.
The Argentine embassy was not immediately available for
comment, but the British official said after the meeting that
Castro had been "very cross" to have been summoned and that
she had accused the Foreign Office of "wasting her time".
The British official said Britain believed Argentina had been
contacting cruise companies and other firms to try to
pressure them into not doing business with the Falkland
Islands, which Argentina calls the Malvinas.
Fernandez has accused London of maintaining "colonial
enclaves" and has demanded the two countries sit down to
discuss the disputed islands' sovereignty - a suggestion
Britain has rejected.
Lawmakers in Buenos Aires province passed a bill in August
banning ships involved in business activities off the
Falkland Islands from mooring at its ports, part of
Argentina's drive to discourage oil exploration in the area.
Argentina had already banned ships flying the Falklands flag
from entering the country's ports. The regional Mercosur
trade group backed the move.