BUENOS AIRES — Argentine President Raul Alfonsin assured President Reagan that his country will use words, not guns, to settle its latest dispute with Britain over the Falkland Islands, a top Argentine official said Tuesday.
During a 10-minute telephone conversation late Monday night, Alfonsin told Reagan--who was in Los Angeles after winding up a campaign on behalf of Republican candidates in Tuesday's elections--that Argentina will only respond to Britain in "international forums and peaceful ways," Argentine Vice President Victor Martinez said.
Britain announced a 150-mile fishing conservation area around the islands last Wednesday and said it reserved the right to maintain a 200-mile fisheries limit in keeping with international law.
Martinez said Reagan made the telephone call to express concern about the effect the British move might have and to say that U.S. officials are studying the texts of diplomatic documents announcing the decision as well as Argentina's rejection of it. Alfonsin asked for Reagan's understanding and support for an Argentine diplomatic offensive in international forums in defense of its rights over the islands, he said.
Reagan also offered "everything that could support setting up a dialogue" between the two sides, Martinez added.
An assistant White House spokesman, Roman Popaduik, declined comment on the substance of the telephone conversation, but said, "Our general policy has been to encourage the two sides to negotiate their differences."
Popaduik said that, although it was Reagan who made the call, it was Alfonsin who had proposed it.
Alfonsin also said that he is making a private visit to the United States beginning Nov. 16, just one day after Reagan is scheduled to meet at Camp David with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Popaduik said he knew nothing of the Argentine president's plans.
Alfonsin has been highly critical of Britain's move, calling it a "provocation" and a "new usurpation of Argentine rights."
In a speech Monday to an inter-American naval conference in the coastal city of Mar del Plata, Alfonsin said, "The Argentine people and government are pacific, but we will defend our rights with the firmness that the people demand from us."
Shortly afterward, Peruvian President Alan Garcia called on Latin America to give its "full and militant support" to Argentina in its dispute with Britain. "He who commits aggression against Argentina, commits aggression against Peru and against all Latin America," Garcia said in a speech before Argentine politicians.
Went to War in 1982
In 1982, Britain and Argentina went to war over the Falkland Islands, 300 miles off Argentina's southern coast. Argentina claims that the islands, which it calls the Malvinas, were stolen by Britain 153 years ago.
Britain has maintained a 150-mile "protection zone" around the islands since the war--barring entry to all Argentine vessels. However, the new fishing zone would reach almost to the coast, and it overlaps Argentina's own 200-mile maritime limit. Britain has said, however, that it will not enforce the new fishing zone until Feb. 1, and then only up to 150 miles from the islands.