Reynaldo Bignone, the modest retired general designated by the Army as Argentina's next president, has told political party leaders here that he has no firm plan of government and that "there are those who say I will not make it" to Wednesday's inauguration.
Bignone, recalled from retirement last week by an Army leadership feuding with the Navy, the Air Force and within its own ranks, promised political leaders in a lengthy meeting here Thursday night "a clean game" from the Army in returning the country to democracy in 1984. He asked their help in preventing Argentina from "falling into anarchy."
He also said Argentina's claim to the Falkland Islands would be the first priority of his foreign policy and that the country would seek to assert its claim "with all the actions that may be necessary."
The military government today released transcripts of Bignone's meeting with the 13 political laders in a continuing effort to rally public support for an administration that appears to have only fragile backing within the armed forces.
Even as political party leaders praised Bignone's openness to their political and economic proposals, rumors of a military rebellion against Bignone and Army Commander-in-Chief Cristino Nicolaides were so strong in Buenos Aires that the Army was compelled to issue a statement last night denying that a coup was under way.
Informed political sources said that the Army high command, including the 10 top-ranking division generals, was still threatened today by a potential uprising by lower ranking officials who blame them for Argentina's loss of the Falkland Islands.
The new government's wooing of political and military support appeared to have stabilized its position somewhat since Tuesday, when the Army announced it was assuming power following the withdrawal of the Air Force and Navy from the six-year-old military government.
Political sources said today that the immediate danger of a coup appeared to be slackening with time as tempers cooled and dissident military chiefs faced the prospect that chaos might follow the collapse of Bignone's government.
Bignone's address to the political leaders, the first extensive comment made by the 56-year-old former general secretary of the Army since he was named president, was unusually frank in spelling out the political problems faced by the Army in the crisis following Argentina's surrender on the Falklands and the ouster of president and Army commander Lt. Gen. Leopoldo Galtieri.
Conceding that he had no plan of government and had chosen no Cabinet ministers, Bignone nevertheless promised to lift the military's ban on political activities after Wednesday's inauguration and said he had been favorably impressed by a list of economic policy guidelines proposed by Argentina's five largest political parties.
Political leaders, in addition to asking for an election date to be set soon, have demanded that the Army government switch its economic policies from the free-market, anti-inflationary model of the past six years to a statist program designed to jolt Argentina out of recession with pay raises, subsidies and controlled interest rates.
Bignone said the "unavoidable priority" of Argentine foreign policy would be Argentine sovereignty over the Falkland Islands, called the Malvinas Islands here, "taking opportunity all actions that may be necessary for that."
He added that there was "no possibility" that Argentina would renew relations with Great Britain and said relations with the United States "will be normal, but fitting the circumstances."
The general's remarks seemed to confirm reports by political and military sources here that the rule of Bignone and Nicolaides represents an essentially conservative group in the military opposed to the extreme shifts in foreign and domestic policy following the Falklands crisis and apparently favored by Galtieri and many in the high command of the Navy and, to a lesser extent, the Air Force.
The 10 division generals, who in the last week have been the controlling power behind Nicolaides and Bignone, are almost unaimously opposed to any continuation of military conflict with Britain or shifting Argentina's foreign policy dramatically away from ties with the United States and the West, informed sources said.
Nevertheless, political sources here expect any new government to reorganize Argentina's economic policy toward state-promoted industrial development and to seek stronger relations with Latin American and non-alighed nations.
Many political and diplomatic analysts also expect Argentina to embark on a massive program of rearming and training its armed forces in preparation for a future effort to retake the South Atlantic islands. With nationalistic feeling for Argentina's 149-year-old claim to the Falklands still running high, any other course would be politically impossible, these analysts say, despite the strain an arms-buying spree will likely put on Argentina's already weak economy.
Bignone reportedly was prevented from striking concrete bargains on policy with political leaders by the top Army command, who, sources said, remained rigid and defensive against the internal turmoil within the Army.