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Paper: Thatcher Gave Pinochet Plate

March 5, 2000 GMT

LONDON (AP) _ Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has given Gen. Augusto Pinochet a silver plate originally cast to celebrate Sir Francis Drake’s victory over the Spanish fleet _ a clear reference to Spain’s failed attempt to extradite the former Chilean dictator, the Sunday Times reported.

The newspaper said Thatcher had arranged for the plate _ the design for which was first cast in 1588 _ to be delivered to Pinochet’s plane as it prepared to take off from a British air force base Thursday for Chile. The plate was inscribed with Thatcher’s signature.

Accompanying the plate was a note from Thatcher that read: ``Your return to Chile has ensured that Spain’s attempts to impose judicial colonialism have been firmly rebuffed,″ the Sunday Times said.

There was no immediate comment from Thatcher, who defended Pinochet throughout his 16-month detention in Britain and argued for his release.

The general was a key ally of Britain in its 1982 war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands, which occurred when Thatcher was in power.

Pinochet had been held on an extradition warrant issued by a Spanish judge who wanted to try him for alleged human rights abuses during his 1973-90 dictatorship. He was released after Home Secretary Jack Straw ruled he was medically unfit to stand trial.