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Argentina Rejects British Extension of Falklands Fishing Rights

October 30, 1986 GMT

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) _ Argentina announced today it has canceled a scheduled discharge of military conscripts and will create a special military committee because Britain expanded its Falkland Islands fishing zone.

Britain retook the islands from Argentine occupation forces after a 10-week battle that killed about 1,000 men in 1982. It decided Wednesday to extend its fishing zone around the islands from three to 200 nautical miles (230 miles), citing in part what it called Argentina’s ″aggressive patrolling″ of the disputed waters.

The Falklands are about 300 miles off the southern Argentine coast and the new fishing zone overlaps Argentine territorial waters.

President Raul Alfonsin rejected the British move as a provocation and an encroachment on Argentine sovereignty, saying the action would ″cause serious tensions and conflicts, with consequences as yet unforeseeable.′ ′

Defense Minister Horacio Jaunarena told foreign reporters the armed forces were not placed on alert but that naval vessels remained under orders to patrol the country’s 200-mile offshore zone.

″It’s our zone. The boats are carrying out their normal patrols,″ he said. ″We are not trying to provoke any incident that could cause Britain″ to complain of Argentine agression.

The minister said he ordered that a discharge of conscripts scheduled for the end of this month be suspended to keep the armed forces at a state of readiness. ″We have maintained 100 percent of the conscripts,″ he said, but added that he did not know how many people were involved.

Alfonsin planned to decree the creation of a special military committee to advise him on the affair that would include Jaunarena and several top military officials, the minister said.

Alfonsin, after meeting Wednesday with government and military leaders, said Britain’s declaration would ″cause serious tensions and conflicts, with consequences as yet unforeseeabale.″

A government communique said Argentina favors a negotiated settlement of the Falklands issue, but added that it ″will not allow the arbitrary attempt by the United Kingdom to exercise powers that conflict with Argentina and to take away areas and resources that pertain to the national patrimony.″

Britain said it took the measure because of failure to reach agreement with Argentina on fishing rights and because of what it called Argentina’s ″aggressive patrolling″ of the disputed waters. London said fishing restrictions, including licensing requirements, would be strictly enforced within 150 nautical miles (172.5 miles) of the islands.

British Foreign Secretary Sir Geoffrey Howe, announcing the new zone to the House of Commons, said Britain might ″use armed force in appropriate circumstances″ to protect its rights.

The waters are exploited by a number of foreign fleets, some of which have worked out accords with Buenos Aires allowing them to fish in the disputed zone.

Falklanders have complained that the waters’ stocks of squid, hake and blue whiting are endangered by overfishing from Soviet, Polish and Japanese vessels, among others.

The Falklands are home to about 2,000 ″Kelpers″ as the British-descended islanders are known. British forces took the archipelago from Argentina in 1833, but Buenos Aires has never recognized British sovereignty.

Argentine forces, dispatched by the then-ruling military junta, invaded and occupied the islands on April 2, 1982. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher sent a naval task force to reconquer the colony.

Alfonsin’s election in 1983 restored civilian rule.

Britain has declared a 150-mile zone around the islands off-limits to Argentine vessels since the war. Argentine trawlers periodically have complained of being harassed by British military planes when they approached the limit.

″The British declaration constitutes ... a clear challenge,″ the Argentine communique said.

It accused Britain of attempting to expand its control of mineral rights. The Falklands area is believed to contain petroleum and natural gas deposits.

Derek Ogden, head of the Falklands office in London, estimated the licensing requirement will bring the island the equivalent of $28.2 million a year, ″more than six times our present revenue.″ The island’s revenues are mainly from wool.

Several Argentine legislators called for economic sanctions against Britain, and one suggested the government seize British goods in Argentina.