News / Asia

Australian FM Blames US, Not Assange, for WikiLeaks

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd (file photo)
Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd (file photo)

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd says he blames the United States, not WikiLeaks  founder Julian Assange, for the release of secret U.S. diplomatic cables.

Rudd said Wednesday that the people who originally leaked the documents were legally liable for their distribution by the WikiLeaks website.  He said the leaks pointed to problems with U.S. security.

WikiLeaks  has released a new batch of U.S. documents, despite the arrest and jailing of its founder Assange in London Tuesday.  The latest cables say that the British government feared Libya would take "harsh and immediate" action against British interests if the convicted Lockerbie bomber died in a Scottish prison.

A U.S. diplomat wrote in a 2009 cable that Libya used "thuggish" threats to halt trade deals with Britain and harass British citizens in Libya if Libyan Abdel Baset al-Megrahi remained in jail.  His released last year raised tensions between Washington and London.

Megrahi was convicted of the 1988 attack that blew up a Pan Am passenger plane over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 259 people aboard the plane and 11 people on the ground. Most of the passengers were U.S. citizens.

The latest release came with a defiant message online that promised the flow of secret documents would continue.  

Assange was denied bail in London Tuesday.  He is fighting extradition Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning about alleged sex offenses. The court has ordered Arrange held in British custody until his next hearing on December 14.

Swedish prosecutor Marianne Ny says the investigation has nothing to do with WikiLeaks , which has angered the U.S. government by publishing secret U.S. diplomatic cables.  Ny said she has no intention of handing Assange over to the United States if he is extradited to Sweden.

The case against Assange stems from his encounters with two women in August.  His lawyer says the dispute is over what he called "consensual but unprotected sex"  and alleged the charges are politically motivated.

U.S. officials said Tuesday some foreign governments have already grown reluctant to trust the U.S. because of the secrets revealed by WikiLeaks.  State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said meetings that used to involve several diplomats now have fewer.  He said that in at least one case, it was requested that "notebooks be left outside the room."

Pentagon spokesman Dave Lapan said the U.S. military has seen foreign contacts "pulling back."

Neither Crowley nor Lapan provided specific examples of countries that have reduced their contacts with U.S. officials because of the leaks.  The cables contain potentially damaging reports on governments in a number of countries including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Russia.


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