Argentines bend a bit on negotiating position

Argentina is offering the inhabitants of the Falkland Islands a measure of administrative autonomy - but under firm Argentine control, according to reports circulating here.

If Argentine press reports are correct, the Argentine government has recently injected a limited measure of flexibility into its negotiating position. These reports indicate, for example, that the government would consider replacing with police the troops that it has dispatched to the Falkland Islands. The Argentine Foreign Ministry has reportedly offered a withdrawal of troops from the islands in return for a withdrawal of the British fleet.

Prior to the visit here of US Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig Jr. April 9-11, the Argentine junta was refusing even to consider withdrawing those troops , now said to number more than 6,000.

Argentine newspapers report, however, that there's one thing that the Argentine junta will refuse to negotiate: Argentine sovereignty over the islands. The Argentine flag, they say, must be kept flying there.

According to the daily newspaper Clarn, the English-speaking islanders would be allowed to participate in a commission and administrative council for the islands, supposedly one similiar to that which existed prior to the Argentine invasion of April 2.

The Argentines are apparently rejecting all suggestions that they accept an international peacekeeping force or United Nations commission on the islands.

What Argentina is proposing would appear to be difficult for Britain to accept. But it may be just enough for the two sides to enter a cooling-off period during which the US can continue to pursue its role as a mediator. What Secretary of State Haig may have accomplished so far is to buy time--and nothing more.

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