Secret UK files lift lid on Thatcher-Reagan Falklands contacts

Thu Dec 27, 2012 7:10pm EST
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By Alessandra Prentice

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher wrote an emotional letter to U.S. President Ronald Reagan during the 1982 Falklands War calling him the "only person" who could understand her position, formerly secret documents showed on Friday.

Newly declassified files from 1982 lift the lid on contacts between the two leaders over the crisis and reveal the extent of the pressure Thatcher felt she was under when Argentina invaded the remote South Atlantic archipelago to reclaim what it said was its sovereign territory, triggering a 10-week war.

In one file, the tough, outspoken Thatcher called the build-up to the Argentine invasion the "worst, I think of my life", while letters to Reagan from the time show her reliance on the U.S. president and their close working relationship.

"I am writing to you separately because I think you are the only person who will understand the significance of what I am trying to say," Thatcher told Reagan in one letter, saying the principles of democracy, liberty and justice were at stake.

Britain held its breath when Thatcher dispatched a naval task force to the British-ruled Falkland islands following the Argentine invasion. Despite losing several warships, the British eventually reclaimed the South Atlantic islands 74 days later. Some 649 Argentines and 255 British troops were killed.

Elsewhere, the files show that Thatcher stressed the special relationship between the two countries as she requested Reagan's help in a letter signed off with "Warm personal regards, Margaret".

"I also believe that the friendship between the United States and Britain matters very much to the future of the free world," she wrote.

The files provide a unique perspective on the first and only female British prime minister's personal feelings as she waged war against Argentina, contemporary records specialist Simon Demissie told Reuters.   Continued...

British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and President Reagan share a laugh during a meeting of the Allied leaders in New York on October 24, 1985. REUTERS/Chas Cancellare