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British lawmakers to visit Falklands: Report

world Updated: Feb 15, 2012 08:18 IST

British lawmakers will visit the Falkand Islands next month, stoking tensions with Argentina before the 30th anniversary of the war between the two countries, The Times reported on Wednesday.

Members of Britain's Defence Select Committee will conduct the first such visit in almost a decade days before the anniversary of the invasion of the islands -- known as the Malvinas in Spanish -- by Argentine forces on April 2, 1982.

"Given that we have a significant military presence in the is only right that the defence committee goes and sees first-hand what taxpayers' money is being spent on and what it is doing," said Thomas Docherty, a Labour member of the committee.

"One of my priorities given the historic connection this year will be the anniversary. It is important this year that we recognise the sacrifices made," he told the paper.

Argentina's foreign minister Hector Timerman last week made a protest to the United Nations about Britain's "militarization" of the zone, saying the South Atlantic has become "the last refuge of an empire in decline."

Timerman said Britain had increased its military firepower "fourfold" around the Falklands by sending a destroyer and a nuclear submarine.

British officials have refused to confirm the presence of a nuclear vessel but insist that the warship is just replacing a ship that was already there.

Britain's UN ambassador Mark Lyall Grant warned Argentina about trying to "take advantage of the 30th anniversary of the Falklands War", and vowed Britain would "defend our position and defend it robustly."

The MPs' visit coincides with Prince William's six-week tour of duty on the islands, which Argentina believes is an act of provocation by Britain.

Argentina made its protest to the United Nations amid growing diplomatic tensions around the anniversary of the conflict that erupted after Argentina's invasion. Britain sent a naval force to reclaim the territory and has since spent heavily to maintain strengthened bases there.

Britain says sovereignty can only be discussed if the Falklands population want it.