Argentina to take frigate fight with Ghana to UN

October 21, 2012 4:39 am


A sailor from the Argentinian frigate Libertad, seized in a port in Ghana in connection with a debt dispute/AFP
BUENOS AIRES, Oct 21- Argentina said Saturday it would haul Ghana before the United Nations over the seizure this month in the west African nation of a warship belonging to Buenos Aires.

“The president (Cristina Kirchner) has instructed the foreign minister to travel immediately to UN headquarters” in New York, Foreign Minister Hector Timerman said in a statement read out on television here.

Timerman also said Kirchner decided that all those aboard the ship — Argentine and other nationals — should be evacuated immediately, “leaving on board only the captain and a skeleton crew to take care of it while it remains held” in the Ghanaian port of Tema.

The crew of 326 are mostly Argentine but also include eight sailors from Uruguay, 15 from Chile, and others from Brazil, Paraguay, Ecuador, South Africa and Venezuela.

“The Argentine government holds the Ghanaian government responsible for any damage the frigate might sustain,” Timerman stressed.

The Libertad, which went to Ghana for a training mission, was seized by port officials in the West African nation on October 2 under a court order secured by a Cayman Islands investment group that claims Buenos Aires owes it more than $370 million (283 million euros).

In an effort to resolve the crisis, Argentina sent its deputy ministers of defense and foreign affairs, Alfredo Forti and Eduardo Zuain, to Ghana.

Timerman has said the seizure is illegal, saying the vessel was protected by immunity that Ghana, being a signatory to international conventions, recognizes.

He also has said negotiating with what Argentina considers a “vulture fund” was not an option.

NML Capital Limited — whose court claims led to the seizure of the ship — bought Argentine bonds at a discount when the country’s economy was in freefall in 2000. Buenos Aires later defaulted.

The country has rescheduled and refinanced much of its debt, but bonds held by speculative funds are among Argentina’s unsettled business.

The head of Argentina’s military intelligence, Lourdes Puente Olivera, resigned Thursday over the incident.

Her departure followed that of the commander of the Argentine navy, Carlos Alberto Paz, on Monday. The government has also punished two high-ranking naval officers over the decision to have the ARA Libertad and its crew stop over at the port of Tema.


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