British cuts leave Falklands open to attack: ex-admirals

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Britain's decision to axe its fleet of Harrier jets and flagship aircraft carrier will leave the Falkland Islands open to attack from Argentina, a group of former commanders claimed Wednesday.

In a letter to The Times newspaper, the retired admirals called the coalition government's decision, announced in a defence review last month, as "perverse."

"We believe the prime minister has been badly advised to scrap the Harrier force and HMS Ark Royal and to rely entirely upon Tornado," the letter said.

Addressing the Falklands, the letter continued: "Argentina is practically invited to attempt to inflict on us a national humiliation on the scale of the loss of Singapore, one from which British prestige ... might never recover."

Britain, which has held the archipelago since 1833, won a short but bloody war when Argentina's military junta invaded the islands in 1982, resulting in the deaths of 649 Argentine and 255 British troops.

Signatories of the letter include former Navy boss Lord West, who served as a counter-terrorism minister in the previous Labour government, and admiral of the fleet, Julian Oswald.

"The decision to axe the entire Harrier force is strategically and financially perverse," the former chiefs said.

"The government has, in effect, declared a new 'ten-year rule' that assumes Britain will have warning time to rebuild to face a threat.

"The last treasury-driven 'ten-year rule' in the 1930s nearly cost us our freedom, faced with Hitler.

"We believe that these decisions should be rescinded in the over-riding national interest, before it is too late," the letter concluded.

The Conservative-led coalition is battling to rein in a cumbersome deficit, which is expected to hit 12.6 percent of GDP this year, well above the EU's three percent limit.

© 2010 AFP

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