OTTAWA _ The Harper government has spent almost $700,000 fighting a class-action lawsuit by disgruntled, wounded Afghan veterans.

The figures are contained in a response to a written question posed by the opposition Liberals and tabled recently in Parliament.

The ex-soldiers are challenging the government's 2006 overhaul of benefits, claiming the new veterans charter is discriminatory under the charter of rights because it does not provide the same level of benefits and support as the old pension system.

In the government's statement of defence, federal lawyers argue Ottawa has no special obligation to those who've fought the country's wars and that it is unfair to bind the current government to promises made nearly a century ago by another prime minister.

The assertion has given the governing Conservatives a black eye among ex-soldiers, who are considered a natural constituency.

Mike Blais, president of Canadian Veterans Advocacy, says the legal bill is unconscionable and he called on the government to drop the lawsuit and negotiate a settlement.