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Chapter Ten RESOLUTION 502 Britain's initial military moves were backed up by an equally crash programme of diplomatic action. The natural forum was the UN Security Council. Argentina, not Britain, had been the first to consider a move to the Security Council. On 31 March, when the British Government had yet to realize that an invasion was imminent, the Junta was becoming more convinced than ever that British reinforcements were steaming towards the Falklands. It decided to denounce Britain at the United Nations for using a military build-up to avoid serious discussions of sovereignty, as required by past UN resolutions. Any Argentine actions would therefore be justified as an effort to thwart this plan. Also with the UN in mind it was decided to make preliminary contact with Moscow and Beijing. However, as with all Argentine diplomacy over this period it was inhibited by the need for secrecy with regard to Operation Rosario. A faint possibility that American mediation might produce a last-minute concession from Britain also argued against lobbying too hard at the UN. On 31 March Eduardo Roca, the new Argentine Ambassador to the UN, met the American Ambassador,Jeane Kirkpatrick, who was on her last day as President of the Security Council. He raised the South Georgia issue, which Kirkpatrick still found difficult to take seriously. She argued for low-key diplomacy and suggested that the ambassadors of the two countries meet with her without recourse to the full Council. At this point the Americans wished the dispute to be handled as a 134 Resolution 502 quarrel among friends rather than as a matter for the international community. Kirkpatrick told Roca that Britain did not like to put this sort of issue before the United Nations because the Organization was so unpredictable and anything which hinted of colonialism tended to work against the Western powers. It was true, so far as South Georgia was concerned, that Britain had not considered the Security Council an appropriate forum. It would not be the case with the Argentine occupation, although Roca presumed that it would be from Kirkpatrick 's advice. As a result he was even less well prepared when the issue broke. On ι April Roca did go so far as to circulate a note to members of the Security Council, which referred to the South Georgia incident, the press reports of a British task force travelling to the South Adantic and Endurance's order to evict the Argentine workers, suggesting that this constituted the 'beginning of an aggression'. By this time press reports were also coming through that an Argen­ tine invasion force was sailing towards the Falkland Islands. Before he left for a tour of Europe, the Secretary-General summoned both ambassadors and expressed concern at the rising tension. He made a public appeal for restraint. Around lunchtime, Britain's Ambassador, Sir Anthony Parsons, was told officially by London that an invasion was imminent and he was instructed to call for a meeting of the Security Council. He immediately telephoned Ambassador Kamanda of Zaire, who had just taken over from Kirkpatrick as President of the Council for April. Kirkpatrick warned Parsons that she would 'block' a call for an emergency session of the Security Council. If she attempted to do so, Parsons responded, Ί would demand a vote, procedural vote, on whether we actually discussed the problem. She would have to oppose me on the vote, in public, underneath the television cameras and the rest of it.' 1 The objection was dropped. Parsons's explanation of the situation to members of the Council when they met that afternoon was received with varying degrees of astonishment and disbelief, as well as considerable ignorance of the nature of the dispute. There was the inevitable inquiry whether this was an elaborate April Fool's Day hoax. Afterwards the President made a statement calling on both governments to 'exercise the utmost 135 Confrontation restraint at this time and in particular to refrain from the use of force or threat of force in the region'. Parsons promised restraint from Britain and challenged his Argentine counterpart to do likewise: Roca failed to respond. That evening the British delegation met to prepare further action for the following day when the anticipated news of the invasion would come through. Parsons described two key considerations: 'First we must concentrate on the illegitimate use of force to settle a longstanding political problem. Secondly, we must act quickly and avoid becoming mired in the long negotiations which...


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