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Another Army man for Argentina

The Army has once more gotten its way - this time in the choice of retired Lt. Gen. Reynaldo Bignone as president, Monitor correspondent James Nelson Goodsell reports. But the cost has been high.

General Bignone's candidacy was rejected by the Argentine Air Force and Navy. Both have now pulled out of the government in angry denunciation of the general's appointment. Neither the Air Force nor the Navy specifically opposed General Bignone. They simply felt the time had come for a civilian president and a return to total civilian government.

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But the Army, under Lt. Gen. Cristino Nicolaides, the new Army commander in chief, disagreed. And as with many other things in Argentina - what the Army wants, the Army gets. The Bignone selection is seen here as evidence that General Nicolaides plans to run the show. Although observers do not suggest General Bignone will be a puppet, they don't think he will have major influence in the government, either. The key figure for now will be General Nicolaides.

It is understood that the President-designate will take over on July 1. But this is not certain - an indication of how unsettled the whole govermental apparatus here is.

The name of General Bignone has not been among the two dozen or so individuals who had been mentioned in recent days as possible presidential candidates. Among those mentioned earlier were a number of retired Army generals whose careers had been considerably more distinguished than that of General Bignone. The President-designate is not a particularly forceful Army officer, although he was once director of the Institutos Militares, the elite advanced officer training school at the Campo de Mayo barracks outside Buenos Aires.

The Air Force and Navy decisions to pull out of the government raise major questions about the future of the government, the military establishment itself, and the three branches of the military. Rising disunity within the military was evident long before Argentina launched its occupation of the Falkland Islands April 2, which led to the present government crisis. But the disunity has grown in dimension in recent days as the services were unable to agree on the composition of Argentina's next government.

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