Mon, Dec 20, 2004 - Page 1 News List

Rumsfeld under fire over sympathy notes

AFP , WASHINGTON

A new wave of criticism was set to hit US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld yesterday after he admitted that he had not personally signed Pentagon condolence letters to families of soldiers killed in Iraq.

But he has vowed to do so in the future, according to a Washington Post report.

"I wrote and approved the now more than 1,000 letters sent to family members and next of kin of each of the servicemen and women killed in military action," Rumsfeld said in a statement to the military newspaper Stars and Stripes.

"While I have not individually signed each one, in the interest of ensuring expeditious contact with grieving family members, I have directed that in the future I sign each letter," the defense chief said, according to the Post.

An outcry ensued after the Stars and Stripes reported in late November that the Pentagon was using a signature device to stamp Rumsfeld's signature on the letters, and quoted recipients who said they were insulted.

Several top Republicans, including senator and former presidential candidate John McCain, have recently criticized Rumsfeld, whom Bush has asked to stay on amid a Cabinet re-shuffle in the wake of the November elections.

Former Senate majority leader Trent Lott said that he hoped Rumsfeld would step down sometime in the new year, and accused him of not listening enough to his officers.

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