Argentina's Fernandez condemns 'seized ship blackmail'

The Libertad at the port at Tema, outside Accra, Ghana The Libertad has been held in Ghana since 2 October

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President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner says Argentina will not bow to "blackmail by vulture funds", amid a row over a seized Argentine navy ship.

The Libertad was detained in Ghana three weeks ago at the request of creditors who say Argentina still owes them $300m (£186m) from 2001.

They could keep the ship but nobody would keep Argentina's "liberty, sovereignty and dignity", she said.

Most of the Libertad's 300-plus crew have been ordered to leave.

President Fernandez on Monday again condemned the ship's seizure and made it clear there would be no negotiations with creditors.

The training vessel was detained in the belief that they could pressure or blackmail Argentina, she said.

"As long as I am president, they can keep the frigate but nobody is going to keep the liberty, sovereignty and dignity of this country," she said.

The detention of the Libertad violated "all the rules of international law", she added.

The Libertad - a three-masted tall ship - was impounded in the Ghanaian port of Tema on 2 October under a court order obtained by NML Capital.

The firm says it will only release the ship if Argentina pays at least $20m.

Charter flight

NML Capital is a subsidiary of US hedge fund Elliot Capital Management, one of Argentina's former creditors.

In 2001 and 2002, Argentina defaulted on more than $100bn (£62bn) of debt.

Most of these loans were subsequently restructured, giving creditors about 30% of their money back.

However, some creditors including Elliot chose to hold out, pursuing the Argentine government through the courts.

At the weekend, Ms Fernandez ordered most of the Libertad's crew, who include sailors from several nations, to leave the vessel.

The Argentine foreign ministry says 281 crew members will arrive in Buenos Aires on Wednesday on board an Air France charter flight.

The captain and 44 other crew members are to remain on board for the ship's maintenance.

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