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Changing face of policy over the Falklands

It is depressing that the British ambassador to the UN has given the Secretary General a rather obviously selective account of the history of the Falkland Islands and British claims to sovereignty.

While one can have no quarrel with the emphasis on the right to self-determination of the islanders, it is important to remember that the UN links this right closely to policies in favour of decolonisation.

Furthermore, it is grossly unjust to treat Argentina now as a potentially belligerent power, when the regime of the generals is long gone and when their government only seems to be asking for discussions about sovereignty.

As every reader of the Franks report on the Falklands conflict knows, such discussions were formerly our government's policy. The islanders did not object to talks in 1974, nor exclude discussions on sovereignty in 1977, nor yet reject leaseback in 1980.

They do not seem to have protested when the Argentines built them a runway and provided them with medical supplies, petrol at mainland prices or free secondary education in Argentina.

The shift in British policy seems to have come about because the Tories were low in the polls and banged the imperial drum to increase support.

It is to be hoped that our representatives avoid further confrontational gestures now and, above all, re-read the Franks report before they muddy the Falklands waters.

NIGEL GLENDINNING

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