British PM in row over letter to dead soldier's mother
Tue, Nov 10, 2009

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown was on Tuesday embroiled in a row with the mother of a soldier killed in Afghanistan, after he telephoned her to apologise for a handwritten letter of condolence.

Brown's office said earlier that he was "mortified" to think he had caused offence with the letter which Jacqui Janes called a "hastily scrawled insult."

The Prime Minister, who lost the sight in one eye after a rugby accident and whose writing is known to be untidy, writes to the families of all soldiers killed in Afghanistan.

In his letter to the mother of Jamie Janes, 20, who was killed by an explosion in Afghanistan in October, he misspelled her surname, writing James instead of Janes, and also corrected an error in her son's name.

"As soon as the prime minister was told about this he personally contacted the mother to make absolutely clear that he never meant any offence," Brown's official spokesman said on Monday.

But Janes disputed Downing Street's account of the phone call and said that Brown had declined to apologise.

"He has told the country he called to say sorry for any "unintended mistake"," Janes told top-selling The Sun newspaper on Tuesday.

"But he completely denied making any mistakes, blaming me for not being able to read his writing. And he certainly did not apologise."

The newspaper published a transcript of the 13-minute conversation on Sunday night between the pair which Janes had tape recorded.

"I wanted people to hear it so they could make up their own minds whether that was an apology - instead of the Downing Street spin on it," she explained.

The row comes amid mounting pressure on Brown's government over Britain's role in the war in Afghanistan against Taliban insurgents as troop casualties rise and public support falls.

Brown and military chiefs insisted on Sunday that the war was worth fighting, as the deaths of two more British soldiers brought a grim poignancy to Remembrance commemorations for the war dead.

The bodies of six soldiers killed in Afghanistan, including five gunned down last week by a rogue Afghan policeman, will be returned to Britain later Tuesday.


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