Previously classified documents reveal that President Bush's nominee to be the next defense secretary had advocated military action against the leftist government of Nicaragua in the 1980s.

Documents released Friday by National Security Archive, a private research group in Washington, say Roberts Gates, who in 1984 was the second-ranked official in the CIA, submitted his recommendation to then CIA Director William Casey.

In a memo to Casy, Gates warned that Nicaragua's leftist Sandinista government would become a key ally of the Soviet Union and Cuba, and expand Communist influence into Central America.

Gates dismissed efforts to support Nicaragua's Contra rebels as "halfhearted," and laid out a four-point plan to overthrow the Sandinistas that included airstrikes.

His proposals were never seriously considered by officials in the administration of then President Ronald Reagan.

The administration was later plagued by revelations that it had secretly sold arms to Iran and used the money to fund the Contra rebels, in violation of a congressional mandate.

Ex-Sandinista leader Daniel Ortega was elected Nicaraguan president earlier this month, 16 years after he was voted out of power.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.