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Prince William starts Falklands tour of duty
by Staff Writers
London (AFP) Feb 4, 2012

Britain's Prince William has begun his duties as a search and rescue pilot in the Falkland Islands, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said Saturday, a deployment which has infuriated Argentina.

The 29-year-old, who is second in line to the throne, has been sent to the South Atlantic archipelago as a routine part of his duties as an Royal Air Force (RAF) Sea King helicopter pilot.

But his six-week stint on the barren islands has enraged Buenos Aires, which says the Falklands are occupied Argentine territory. It has condemned the prince's tour as a "provocation".

William, the eldest son of the heir to the throne Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, arrived in the British overseas territory on Thursday.

His first day on duty involved briefings on his role, which could include rescuing stranded fishermen, whisking patients to hospital or dropping off supplies to remote areas, said the ministry.

"Flight Lieutenant Wales has commenced his duties as an RAF search and rescue (SAR) helicopter pilot in the Falkland Islands providing SAR cover for both the civilian and military population," the MoD said in a statement.

The timing of the deployment has added to tensions ahead of the 30th anniversary of the war between Britain and Argentina over the Falklands.

The windswept islands, home to about 3,000 people staunchly loyal to Britain, have been held by Britain since 1833.

On April 2, 1982, the then-ruling junta in Argentina invaded the Falklands, sparking a 74-day war with Britain which cost the lives of 649 Argentine and 255 British troops.

William's first shift at the RAF Mount Pleasant base on East Falkland -- a garrison built after the war -- involved briefings on the local flying environment and familiarisation with the area and the job.

He is part of a four-man crew.

"A posting to operations in the Falklands is a vital part of the career progression for an SAR pilot. The experience they get here is second to none," said Squadron Leader Miles Bartlett, the SAR officer commanding.

"It is a challenging and varied job providing an essential capability to the military and the Falkland Islands population."

SAR crews have to contend with inhospitable weather, while the population outside the capital Stanley often live in very remote and rugged areas.

The prince is there in his capacity as an RAF pilot only and will not be undertaking any royal duties on the islands.

The prince transferred from a base on Anglesey, northwest Wales.

His wife Catherine, whom he married last year in a ceremony broadcast around the world, remains in Britain and will complete her first solo public engagements during her husband's absence.

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Venezuela parade marks failed Chavez coup
Caracas (AFP) Feb 4, 2012 - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez presided over a military parade Saturday marking the 20th anniversary of his failed coup attempt and affirmed that the country's armed forces are loyal "Chavistas."

The firebrand leader rode in an open car as he marked the 1992 rebellion which he led against then-president Carlos Andres Perez. The coup failed but thrust Chavez into the political spotlight for his criticism of the government as "subordinate" to the United States.

Also in attendance were Presidents Raul Castro of Cuba, Evo Morales of Bolivia, Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, and Michel Martelly of Haiti, who were in Caracas for a summit of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas.

Chavez, who is recovering from cancer treatment and readying his re-election campaign this year, brushed aside criticism from his opponents who have said the armed forces should be cleansed of Chavez loyalists.

The opposition Coalition for Democratic Unity claimed Chavez was trying to force ideology on the armed forces.

But Chavez said the military is "an essentially professional institution, not political." On Friday, he said the armed forces "have Chavez in their heart, in their core, in their soul."

More than 12,000 people took part in the parade, which was broadcast by all Venezuelan TV networks. Some 8,000 watched from the stands, dressed mostly in red, the color of the ruling party.

Chavez's relationship with the military has been under scrutiny in recent weeks following the appointment as defense minister of General Henry Rangel Silva, accused by Washington of links to drug traffickers and the FARC leftist rebels in Colombia.

The event showcased Venezuela's mostly Russian military equipment including T-72 tanks and anti-aircraft equipment.

Chavez said the display showed "tanks for the people, for revolution, not the bourgeoisie or to serve imperialism."

The parade marked the failed rebellion after which Chavez served a prison sentence of three years before being pardoned, but it catapulted him to a popular victory in the 1998 presidential election.

Chavez is seeking a third six-year term in elections on October 7.


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Iran will respond to any oil, military threats: Khamenei
Tehran (AFP) Feb 3, 2012
Iran will respond with threats of its own to intensifying warnings of military attacks and Western sanctions, its supreme leader said Friday in remarks particularly aimed at archfoe the United States. "The United States and others have to know - and they know - that, in response to threats of oil embargo and war, we have our own threats which will be implemented at the right time, if neces ... read more

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