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Clinton smoothes ruffled feathers

01 December 2010, 21:05

Astana - US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used a global summit here on Wednesday to smooth ruffled feathers after embarrassing revelations about world leaders contained in leaked diplomatic cables.

Sunday's dump of more than 250 000 US confidential and classified documents by the whistle-blower website WikiLeaks was high on the agenda of Clinton's bilateral talks in the Kazhak capital on the sidelines of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe summit.

"She brought it up herself, if they didn't bring it up, she did," said a top US official.

Clinton met one-on-one with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, British deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.

"She wasn't shy about raising it. She was very clear that we regret that this has happened," said the official.

"She was also clear, especially to the extent that any of them had concerns about the way it made them look in their own press."

She explained that the cables came from US embassies around the world and "it's not necessarily the view of the United States."

The diplomatic cables included some brutally candid portrayals of world leaders, with French President Nicolas Sarkozy described as "authoritarian", British Prime Minister David Cameron as "lacking depth", Merkel as unimaginative and afraid to take risk while Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, is viewed as "Robin to (Russian Prime Minister Vladimir) Putin's Batman."

But some of the most unflattering comments targeted Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, with a damning assessment of his "ineffective" leadership and his partying lifestyle.
Britain's newspaper The Guardian reported that Elizabeth Dibble, US charge d'affaires in Rome, branded Berlusconi "feckless, vain and ineffective as a modern European leader."

Another document from Rome reported that Berlusconi was a "physically and politically weak" leader whose "frequent late nights and penchant for partying hard mean he does not get sufficient rest," the paper reported.

Clinton later told reporters that US allies had shown understanding and indicated they were prepared to put the whole affair behind them.



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