Debate stirred by Falkland airport opening
London — Britain opened an international airport in the Falkland Islands last week amid continuing controversy about the future of the remote dependency. Three years after Argentine forces surrendered at Port Stanley, Prince Andrew has inaugurated the air facility, which has a runway 10,000 feet long and will eventually cost the British government half a billion pounds.
A helicopter pilot with the 3,000-strong military force in and around the Falklands, the Prince at the opening ceremony spoke of the many troops who died during the effort in 1982 to recapture the tiny dependency, which has a population of a little over 1,000 people.
But in London, opposition politicians, together with some members of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's Tory Party, questioned the value of the new airfield. In Buenos Aires, President Alfonsin accused Britain of having potentially warlike intentions and called for negotiations about the future of the Falklands.
But negotiations are not in Mrs. Thatcher's plans. Her Defense Secretary, Michael Heseltine, who flew to the islands for the opening, said Britain had a strategic need to maintain reliable communication lines with the South Atlantic.
The airport will be used to rotate a British army garrison of 3,000 men through the Falklands as well as to service a similar number of civilian workers sent there to develop the islands' infrastructure.