BRITISH soldiers will not be charged with alleged war crimes against

Argentinians during one of the fiercest battles of the Falklands

campaign, it was announced yesterday.

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The decision by the Director of Public Prosecutions, Mrs Barbara

Mills, was greeted with widespread approval by MPs, military chiefs,

peers -- and even by the man who made the initial allegations.

Mrs Mills ruled that, despite an extensive 18-month inquiry by the

Metropolitan Police, there was insufficient evidence to secure any

criminal convictions.

The police inquiry -- and an earlier inconclusive one by the Royal

Military Police -- had been prompted by a public outcry about alleged

atrocities by members of the Parachute Regiment in 1982, detailed in a

book Excursion to Hell -- the Battle for Mount Longdon.

Twenty-three members of 3 Para were killed and 47 wounded when they

recaptured the isolated mountain overlooking Port Stanley.

In his book about the battle, former paratrooper Vince Bramley claimed

that British troops lined up and executed Argentine prisoners-of-war and

pushed their bodies over the edge of a cliff into a mass grave.

In one passage, Mr Bramley said: ''Suddenly, we heard screaming, a

high-pitched 'Mama, Mama!' A dull shot followed and we saw an

Argentinian fall over the cliff.

''A group of our guys had assembled some Argie prisoners on a cliff

above where we had dug a body pit for their dead. Now, with the battle

over, they were shooting prisoners and toppling them down to be

buried.''

He said they also executed three prisoners who claimed they were

American mercenaries, and that ears were cut off bodies.

But last night Mr Bramley said he was ''relieved'' by the DPP

decision. His book had only intended to highlight the sort of instances

that took place in armed conflicts.

''This book was designed for the Joe Public on the street to read and

see what warfare is all about for the front-line soldier. It was never

my intention for this (inquiry) to take place,'' he said.

Defence Secretary Malcolm Rifkind, who was sent a copy of the book in

June 1991, ordered an investigation by the Royal Military Police which

proved inconclusive.

He referred the matter to the DPP, which requested the Metropolitan

Police inquiry.

Yesterday's decision was based on the outcome of that inquiry,

involved 470 statements from more than 400 witnesses in the UK, the

Falklands, and Argentina.

Mrs Mills said her decision not to issue criminal proceedings came

after consulting the First Senior Treasury Counsel, Mr John Nutting.

The law officers she had consulted had separately considered the case

and agreed with her conclusion, said her statement.

The 18-month inquiry, headed by Detective Superintendent Alec Edwards,

initially looked at the allegations in the book, but moved on to

consider other claims as more testimony was collected from veterans.

Detectives flew to the Falklands twice, once digging at the battle

scene at Mount Longdon.

They also interviewed serving and former paratroopers on accusations

ranging from murder, incitement to murder, grievious bodily harm,

looting, assault, and maltreatment of the dead.

At the end of their inquiry, detectives felt they had enough evidence

to charge two soldiers with murder or manslaughter and, three-and-a-half

months ago Mr Edwards submitted his report to the DPP.

Mrs Mills was under considerable pressure from lawyers, MPs, and

military chiefs to drop the matter and avoid the spectacle of British

soldiers in the dock at the Old Bailey, with Argentine soldiers

appearing as witnesses.

It appeared that only the Argentinian Government was prepared to speak

in favour of criminal prosecutions.

Field Marshal Lord Bramall, former Chief of Defence Staff, said the

benefit of the doubt should be ''accorded to those who risked their

lives in the national interest.''

Major Jeremy Hickman, secretary of the Parachute Regimental

Association, said: ''I know that all our members will be absolutely

delighted with the decision.

Regimental Colonel David Parker said: ''Speaking on behalf of the

whole of the Parachute Regiment, we are absolutely delighted with the

DPP decision.''

The Argentine War Veterans Federation reacted angrily to the decision

accusing the British Government of a cover-up.

''This is simply a cover-up. Major's government is not only covering

up Britain's military, but has also dragged the British justice system

into the mud,'' federation spokesman Jorge Vasquez said.