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Australia blames U.S., not Wikileaks, for leaks

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BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA: The Australian government on Wednesday blamed the United States, not WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, for the unauthorized release of about 250,000 secret U.S. diplomatic cables and said those who originally leaked the documents were legally liable. Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd spoke to Reuters on Wednesday and said Australia will provide Assange with consular help after he was remanded in custody by a British court over allegations of sex crimes in Sweden.

Assange, a 39-year-old Australian, has angered U.S. authorities and triggered headlines worldwide by publishing secret diplomatic cables. Rudd said Assange had contacted the Australian Consul-General in London and asked for consular support.

“Firstly upon being notified that he had been arrested, Mr. Assange contacted the Australian high commission in London. We were then notified, I then spoke to the Australian High Commissioner myself and confirmed that our response to Mr. Assange was that his request for consular support of course would be met as it would be for any Australian. Secondly, consular officials attended his appearance in court in London yesterday. Thirdly, he will be provided with a letter which provides our standard offer of consular visits, consular access to him to make sure that his well-being is OK, he’s been properly cared for and that he has full access to the legal resources that he needs,” he said.

Rudd also said Assange would receive the same consular and legal services as any Australian in the world. “I take that responsibility very seriously because he has, in my view, complete entitlement of presumption of innocence before the law, and our job as the Australian government is to ensure that he has full access to normal consular and legal services that we would seek to provide to any Australian in these sorts of difficulties in any country around the world,” he said.

Rudd said the leaks raised questions over the “adequacy” of U.S. security over the cables.

“I have been pretty consistent about where the core responsibility lies in this entire matter and that lies with the release of an unauthorised nature of this material by U.S. personnel. That’s being tested in the U.S. legal system and there is a secondary question to be post about the legal responsibilities of those who then decimate that information,” Rudd told Reuters.

WikiLeaks founder Assange defended his Internet publishing site on Wednesday, saying it was crucial to spreading democracy and likening himself to global media baron Rupert Murdoch in the quest to publish the truth. Assange has angered the United States and governments across the globe by publishing details of secret U.S. documents.

The original source of the leak is unknown, though a U.S. Army private who worked as an intelligence analyst in Iraq, Bradley Manning, has been charged by military authorities with unauthorized downloading of more than 150,000 State Department cables.

U.S. officials have declined to say whether those cables are the same ones now being released by WikiLeaks. Assange was remanded in custody by a British court on Tuesday (December 07) over allegations of sex crimes in Sweden.-Reuters

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