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1985: Falklands' row civil servant resigns

Ministry of Defence assistant secretary Clive Ponting has resigned from his post.

Mr Ponting, 38, was acquitted of breaching section two of the Official Secrets Act at the Central Criminal Court in London on 11 February.

He was charged with leaking two documents about the sinking of the Argentine cruiser General Belgrano in the 1982 Falklands War - the Royal Navy's first serious attack of the conflict.

He had sent information to the Labour MP for Linlithgow, Tam Dalyell, last July but on Monday the jury found this did not entail, "communicating information to an unauthorised person", which is illegal.

After the two week trial Mr Ponting, from Islington in London, said he thought he was unlikely to return to his 23,000 per year job.

Although the Civil Service was ordered to reimburse Mr Ponting - who had been on half pay since the case began last year - it withdrew his security clearance last week.

Blowing the whistle on Belgrano

His resignation came hours before he received an official warning not to proceed with the publication of extracts from his book, The Right to Know.

A Sunday newspaper has already begun to serialise Mr Ponting's account of events, suggesting senior ministers misled parliament and the public about the timing of the sinking and locations of warships.

And the former assistant secretary also made a speech about the case at a Freedom of Information rally on Thursday.

Ministry of Defence (MoD) officials will consider Mr Ponting's resignation after the weekend, but it is likely to be accepted, since his actions would otherwise have incurred disciplinary proceedings.

The MoD police has announced a new investigation into an anonymous letter sent to Mr Dalyell last April suggesting questions to raise in parliament about the Belgrano affair.

Opposition MPs have accused the Conservative Government of a vendetta, ahead of a debate about the Belgrano affair in the Commons on Monday.


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