Steady on! Queen Elizabeth gets US birthday wishes early

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Britain's Queen Elizabeth II is one of the few people in the world who gets two birthdays, which might explain why the US State Department missed the mark this year... sending greetings a week early.

The two countries famously enjoy a "special relationship," so no surprise then top US diplomat Hillary Clinton would send the British regent birthday wishes.

But, perhaps in their eagerness to ensure the message crossed the Atlantic in time, the State Department acted prematurely, paying "tribute to the Queen's life and legacy" a week before she is to celebrate her official birthday.

"We were a week early," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said laughing, when asked about the statement.

"As always, it is better to give a greeting a week early than a week late," he said with a smile.

Queen Elizabeth II, 84, was born on April 21, 1926. Her official birthday is celebrated on a Saturday in June each year with a ceremony involving a review of British troops. This year the ceremony has been scheduled for June 12.

In a statement issued Friday morning, Clinton celebrated the "special relationship" between London and Washington.

"On this celebratory occasion, we pay tribute to the queen's life and legacy and honor the special relationship between our two nations," she said.

The top US diplomat said the British monarch had been a "beacon of integrity and resolve" since World War II, when, as a princess, she helped "rally her nation in the darkest days of that war."

"Today our special relationship continues to provide a solid foundation as the United States and Britain work side by side to meet the challenges of the 21st century, from supporting the refocused mission in Afghanistan to promoting the global economic recovery to working for peace in the Middle East," Clinton said.

William Hague, Britain's new foreign secretary, made the United States the destination of his first trip abroad after taking office and described America as "the most important ally of the United Kingdom."

© 2010 AFP

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