LONDON - British finance minister George Osborne has rejected a claim by Barclays Plc that the bank was singled out for harsh treatment in a tax row and said the government took action due to the amount of tax at risk.

"This was not harsh treatment of a particular bank but rather the first opportunity to block a newly identified avoidance scheme," Osborne said in a letter to Andrew Tyrie, chairman of parliament's cross-party Treasury Select Committee.

Tyrie published the letter on Thursday after asking Osborne to respond to claims made by former Barclays Chief Executive Bob Diamond in May that tax authorities had singled his bank out for unfair treatment and damaged its reputation.

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