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Argentina, U.K. spar over Falkland Islands

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina - Argentina's president responded harshly to the British prime minister's claims that her government has "colonialist" aims on the Falkland Islands.

Returning to work after what proved to be a false cancer diagnosis that prompted doctors to remove her thyroid, Cristina Fernandez showed off her scar during an animated address to her ministers that was broadcast nationwide.

Speaking for nearly an hour, she directed much of her discourse at British Prime Minister David Cameron, who angered Argentines while she was away by accusing them of having "colonialist" attitudes toward the Falklands.

"We support the Falklands' right to self determination, and what the Argentinians have been saying recently I would argue is actually far more like colonialism, because these people want to remain British, and the Argentinians want them to do something else," he told British lawmakers last week.

On Wednesday, Fernandez responded:

"I heard they're calling us colonialist. ... One is always tempted to respond, but I think it's better to avoid it. When they say these things it's exactly because they don't have reasons or arguments," she said.

Argentina has called on Britain to negotiate the sovereignty of the remote South Atlantic archipelago it calls the Malvinas. Britain has maintained a military presence there since liberating the islands in 1982 from an ill-fated Argentine attempt to take them back.

Some British analysts have accused Argentines of saber-rattling as the 30th anniversary of that war nears, but Fernandez has insisted on a peaceful resolution.

On Wednesday, she took another step, announcing that she's making public the "Rattenbach Report," a long-secret analysis of Argentine leadership failures that called the war a "military adventure" and recommended criminal penalties for those responsible. The report was prepared in 1982, just before the end of Argentina's dictatorship, but was kept classified to keep anyone from being punished.

Fernandez sought to draw a clear line between what she called the militarism of other governments and the democracy she leads.

"Next year will mark 180 years since the usurpation by the government of United Kingdom, which threw out the Argentines who were there (on the islands). They want to make us out to be the bad and violent little ones, something we're not," she said.

She noted that there are more British people living in Buenos Aires than on the disputed islands, and praised the many British businesses located in Argentina. "I would advise Cameron to have a little talk with the executives of these businesses, so that they can tell him how we Argentines are."

Twice in recent days, pro-government protesters have been pushed back by riot police from the British Embassy in Buenos Aires, chanting and carrying signs demanding that Britain turn over the islands. Falklanders have responded that they have nothing in common with the Argentines and want to remain part of the British commonwealth.

Attention on the islands will likely increase with the scheduled arrival next month of Prince William, who will start a Royal Air Force tour of duty. He is a qualified search and rescue pilot.

Fernandez also took the opportunity of Wednesday's address to joke about her cancer scare.

Questions raised by the newspaper Clarin and other opposition media about her diagnosis and operation had prompted Fernandez to release her medical records, reinforcing what her doctors and outside experts said: She is among the 2 percent of patients who have their thyroids removed only to discover they never had cancer.

"I was going to come with a handkerchief because it doesn't look very aesthetic," she said, referring to a deep horizontal crease just above her collarbone that appears to have healed nicely during her 20-day medical leave.

"But I thought, if I cover it up with a handkerchief, tomorrow Clarin will say, 'This woman wasn't operated on,"' she joked. "You all know that aesthetics are very important to me, but I told myself, 'Sweetie, politics before style.'"

Fernandez's last public appearance had been Dec. 28, the day after her office announced the cancer diagnosis. Doctors removed the entire gland Jan. 4 after discovering several more lumps during surgery. Tests then showed the growths were benign.

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