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Argentina Protests British Sailors’ Attempted Theft of Flag

June 5, 1987

LIMA, Peru (AP) _ The Argentine government Thursday accused the British Royal Navy of an ″insolent provocation″ after two sailors returning from a night out on the town tried to steal the flag from an Argentine ship.

A spokesman for the British Embassy confirmed that the incident occurred about midnight Tuesday as the Argentine cargo ship General Belgrano and the Royal Navy frigate HMS Minerva were moored near each other off the port of Callao near Lima.

The General Belgrano has the same name as another Argentine ship that Britain sank during the Falklands War in 1982.

Argentina’s Ambassador to Peru, Anselmo Marini, said Thursday that a sailor sneaked onto the Argentine ship but was caught while trying to take the Argentine down from the ship’s mast.

″Ship guards saw the insolent provocation and went after the intruder, recovering the flag through an energetic action,″ he said in a statement.

The British Embassy spokesman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Minerva had formally apologized to the General Belgrano over the incident.

He said two sailors from the Minerva were involved and would be punished aboard their ship. He said he didn’t know their identities nor how they were to be disciplined.

″It was a couple of young sailors on the way back from a night out in downtown Lima,″ the spokesman said,. He said the two believed it was a practical joke and did not realize the consequences.

A port spokesman said the General Belgrano left Wednesday night for Valparaiso, Chile, and the Minerva left Thursday morning for an undisclosed destination.

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