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US friends, foes savage WikiLeaks

30 November 2010, 12:00

Paris - Friends and foes of the United States turned on WikiLeaks over its release of secret US diplomatic cables, with some saying the revelations undermined diplomacy, while others dismissed them as worthless.

"This will weaken diplomacy around the world. It will weaken diplomacy in general, but first and foremost American diplomacy," Sweden's Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said as the mass release of documents continued.

"I see this rather as something that is making the world less safe," he said.

But Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, mentioned in much of the diplomatic discussion revealed by the WikiLeaks website, dismissed the documents as "worthless mischief".

Afghanistan said its ties with Washington would not be shaken by portrayals of President Hamid Karzai as an "extremely weak" and paranoid leader and his brother as a corrupt drugs baron.

"We don't see anything substantive in the document that will strain the relationship," Karzai's spokesperson Waheed Omer told reporters.

Obama 'not pleased'

In Washington, White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs described those behind the leaks as "criminals, first and foremost" who had committed a "serious" offence.

It was an understatement to say President Barack Obama was "not pleased", he added.

"Obviously, there is an ongoing criminal investigation about the stealing of and the dissemination of sensitive and classified information," he said.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told US allies she "deeply regretted" the release of the cables.

"This disclosure is not just an attack on America's foreign policy interests. It is an attack on the international community," Clinton said following talks with Turkey's foreign minister.

Ahmet Davutoglu - whose visit coincided with the release of the cables, one of which had Washington wondering if it could count on Turkey to contain Iran - stressed the "strategic relationship" between their countries.

Relations remain unchanged

Close US allies Britain, France and Germany brushed aside disparaging personal remarks about their leaders contained in the cables.

France however condemned the leaks as "irresponsible" and "an attack on states' sovereignty".

Britain slammed the release as damaging to national security, but said it would continue to work closely with Washington.

And German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told reporters: "A few gossipy comments about European politicians are not exactly welcome but they are not really important.

"But in other cases, people's lives could be put at risk."

Israel, which has long waged a diplomatic war on Tehran, said the cables vindicated its concerns about a nuclear Iran that were shared across the Arab world.

Russia's Batman and Robin

The documents showed that Saudi Arabia had repeatedly urged a US military strike to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions.

"The Arab countries are pushing the United States towards military action more forcefully than Israel," said an Israeli official.

But Ahmadinejad told a press conference broadcast live on state television that "the documents that they released are a mischief. We do not see any value in them".

In Saudi Arabia, foreign ministry spokesperson Osama Nugali said "these documents do not concern the kingdom... Nor is it aware of their authenticity. Therefore Saudi Arabia cannot comment on them".

Russia also played down being called "a virtual mafia state" where all the decision-making is done by "alpha dog" Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and not President Dmitry Medvedev, described as "Robin to Putin's Batman".

"Our own diplomats are sometimes just as open in their own private messages to each other," a Kremlin official told the Kommersant business daily.

Chavez calls for heads to roll

But some observers directed their criticism at the US administration.

Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice-presidential candidate, accused Obama of not having done enough to prevent the leaks, in a message on her Facebook page.

Of WikiLeaks director Julian Assange she said: "He is an anti-American operative with blood on his hands."

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez meanwhile called for heads to roll.

"Mrs Clinton should resign," Chavez said in a speech. "It's the least you can do: Resign, along with those other delinquents working in the State Department."



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