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Lehman: British Would Have Lost Falklands War Without U.S. Support

May 29, 1988 GMT

LONDON (AP) _ Britain would not have recaptured the Falkland Islands from Argentina in 1982 without U.S. military assistance, former U.S. Navy Secretary John Lehman was quoted Sunday as saying.

In a British Broadcasting Corp. television interview to be broadcast Wednesday night, Lehman also says U.S. involvement in the Falklands war led indirectly to the Irangate scandal, the Observer newspaper reported.

The weekly said Lehman’s interview will be included in the latest episode of ″An Ocean Apart,″ a BBC documentary series on British-American relations.

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″Britain would have had to have withdraw from the Falklands″ if the Reagan administration withheld support, it quoted Lehman as saying.

U.S. military aid in the 74-day war, in which Britain recaptured the South Atlantic archipelago from invading Argentine forces, has been a closely guarded secret, the Observer said.

″Lehman is the first senior U.S. official to claim that the Pentagon’s supplies of intelligence and material were so great as to have been decisive,″ it said.

The newspaper quoted unidentified Pentagon sources as saying U.S. supplies during the war included 200 Sidewinder anti-aircraft missiles, eight Stinger anti-aircraft systems, Harpoon anti-ship missiles, mortar shells, satellite intelligence, communications facilities and use of a U.S. air base on Ascension Island.

It said the sources also indicated the U.S. Navy would have loaned the 12,000-ton assault ship USS Guam if the British aircraft carrier Invincible was sunk.

″In my judgment, the outcome would have been very different if it weren’t for the support and the flow of intelligence, of logistics, of technical support, of communications, and of things like Sidewinders from the United States to the Royal Navy,″ the Observer quoted Lehman as saying.

The war killed 712 Argentine and 256 British troops.

Lehman was quoted as saying that when Latin American countries learned of the U.S. aid, they withdrew support for the U.S.-backed rebels fighting Nicaragua’s Sandinista government, and Washington was forced to find alternative means of supplying the rebels.

″The Argentines and all the other Latin Americans abruptly stopped supporting the efforts of the Salvadorans and the Contra forces against the Communists in Central America, and that led to Contragate,″ he was quoted as saying.

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He apparently was referring to the U.S. funding of Nicaraguan rebels from profits made from covert arms sales to Iran.

Lehman was Navy Secretary from 1981 to 1987.

Lord Lewin, former chief of Britain’s Defense Staff, was quoted on the same program as saying that ″we paid for everything we got″ from the United States and he confirmed the importance of U.S. intelligence in winning the war.

Lewin was quoted as saying he asked Lehman in the U.S. Navy ″for an account of the Argentine forces’ operational effectiveness. ... He sent me almost a book, which was extremely useful.″