UN, Eskinder Debebe, Associated Press
Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman, left, meets with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, at the U.N., Friday, Feb. 10, 2012. Timerman expressed his country's concerns about a British destroyer that has been moved near the Falkland Islands.

UNITED NATIONS — Argentina said Friday it has information that Britain sent a nuclear-armed submarine to the South Atlantic near the disputed Falkland Islands in the latest salvo in a dispute over the territory.

Argentina's Foreign Minister Hector Timerman told reporters at the United Nations that a submarine called the Vanguard with nuclear weapons was recently sent as part of Britain's deployment in the Falklands, which Argentina calls the Malvinas.

"Argentina has information that within the framework of the recent British deployment in the Malvinas Islands, they sent a nuclear submarine ... to transport nuclear weapons to the South Atlantic," said Timerman.

He said Argentina asked the United Kingdom through diplomatic channels if it had introduced nuclear weapons to the South Atlantic.

Timerman said "thus far, the UK refuses to say whether it's true or not."

He said the deployment of nuclear arms in the region would violate the Treaty of Tlatelolco for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean, designed to create a nuclear-free zone in the region.

Britain's U.N. Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant responded later at a separate news conference to Timerman's comments, saying: "We do not comment on the disposition of nuclear weapons, submarines."

Timerman said Argentina accepted an offer from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to mediate with Britain.

Britain's defense ministry on Friday refused to discuss Timerman's claim, citing long-standing government policy not to comment on the deployment or movements of the country's submarines.

Britain's navy has 11 nuclear-powered submarines, seven armed with conventional weapons, including Tomahawk missiles, and four that carry Trident nuclear missiles, which can deliver warheads more than 4,000 miles (6,400 kilometers).

Britain's Daily Mail newspaper reported the U.K. had deployed a Trafalgar-class submarine, armed only with conventional weapons, to the South Atlantic. The country's defense ministry has declined to comment.

Argentina and Britain fought a war over the islands in 1982. With the approach of the 30th anniversary of that conflict on April 2, tensions have risen between the countries over the status of the territory off the Argentine coast in the South Atlantic Ocean.

The islands, which are a British dependency, are also claimed by Argentina.

Timerman also met Friday with Togo's Ambassador Kodjo Menan, who holds the rotating U.N. Security Council presidency, and Cuban Ambassador Pedro Nunez Mosquera, who heads the U.N. Decolonization Committee.


Associated Press writer David Stringer contributed to this report from London.