Argentina's Menem honors British soldiers killed in Falklands
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Web posted at: 11:01 p.m. EST (0401 GMT)
LONDON (CNN) -- As Argentine and British veterans of the Falklands War looked on, Argentine President Carlos Menem took a step toward reconciliation Wednesday by laying a wreath in memory of Britain's war dead from the 1982 conflict.
The ceremony opened Menem's six-day visit to Britain for official talks that will focus on trade and investment.
Britain has said it will not discuss the still disputed sovereignty of the South Atlantic's Falkland Islands during the visit.
At St. Paul's Cathedral, Menem placed a blue and white wreath of flowers -- representing Argentina's national colors -- at the foot of a black marble plaque listing the names of the 252 British servicemen who died during the war.
About 750 Argentines also died during their country's unsuccessful attempt to take over the British-controlled islands.
The simple 15-minute ceremony was attended by British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook and veterans of the Falklands War from both countries. Among the veterans was Prince Andrew, a combat helicopter pilot during the war.
Menem, who is accompanied on the trip by his daughter Zulema, lunched at Buckingham Palace with Queen Elizabeth and delivered a keynote address at Lancaster House in central London.
Menem restates claim to islands
During the speech, Menem hailed the "excellent bonds" between the two countries and said he came to Britain in the spirit of reconciliation.
But he added that Argentina would not give up its 165-year claim to the Falkland Islands, which lie about 300 miles off its coast.
"As president of Argentina, I repeat we are fully convinced of the legitimacy of out historical rights," Menem said.
"I reaffirm solemnly that my country rejects the use of, or the threat of, armed force to solve this conflict," he said.
Menem instead called for both governments to work toward "practical agreements" on the status of the islands.
Argentina eager to attract investment
Trade links between Britain and Argentina have grown vigorously over the past few years. British exports to Argentina increased almost 50 percent last year to about $800 million dollars.
Eager to attract more investment, Menem brought a large contingent of Argentine lawmakers and businessmen with him on the trip.
In a speech to British business executives, Menem said that today's Argentina was a vastly differently country from the one which went to war with Britain.
Menem's visit is the first to Britain by an Argentine leader since 1960.
He is scheduled to meet with British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Thursday.
CNN Correspondent Richard Blystone and Reuters contributed to this report.
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