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JAPAN OFFICIAL DENIES LETTER WAS AN APOLOGY

Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama denied Saturday that a letter he sent to Britain's prime minister was meant to apologize for Japanese treatment of prisoners of war during World War II.

Murayama said that although his recent letter expressed remorse for Japan's treatment of British and other Allied prisoners during the war, his main intent was to congratulate John Major on his re-election as Conservative Party chief, the Kyodo news agency reported.A Japanese Foreign Ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Murayama's letter simply repeated what former Prime Minister Morihiro Ho-so-ka-wa told Major at a 1993 summit.

Both Hosokawa and Murayama expressed Japan's "deep remorse and apologies" for its treatment of POWs and other wartime actions, the official said.

A spokesman for Major disclosed the existence of the letter on Friday and said that Murayama had apologized.

During World War II, Allied prisoners suffered routine beatings, were used as slave labor and were often starved.

Lawyers representing 73,000 veterans from Britain, the United States, Australia and New Zealand sued the Japanese government in Tokyo last month, seeking $22,000 each in compensation.