Governments around the world on Saturday braced for the release of millions of potentially embarrassing US diplomatic cables by WikiLeaks as Washington raced to contain the fallout.
The whistle-blower Web site is expected to put online 3 million leaked cables covering US dealings and confidential views of countries including Australia, Britain, Canada, Israel, Russia and Turkey.
US diplomats skipped their Thanksgiving holiday weekend and headed to foreign ministries hoping to stave off anger over the cables, which are internal messages that often lack the niceties diplomats voice in public.
“WikiLeaks are an absolutely awful impediment to my business, which is to be able to have discussions in confidence with people. I do not understand the motivation for releasing these documents,” said James Jeffrey, the US ambassador to Iraq. “They will not help, they will simply hurt our ability to do our work here.”
The top US military commander, Admiral Mike Mullen, meanwhile urged WikiLeaks to stop its “extremely dangerous” release of documents, according to a transcript of a CNN interview set to air tomorrow.
US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley also condemned WikiLeaks’ plans.
“It will place lives and interests at risk. It is irresponsible,” he said.
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had contacted leaders in Germany, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Britain, France and Afghanistan over the issue, he said.
Russia’s respected Kommersant newspaper said that the documents included US diplomats’ conversations with Russian politicians and “unflattering” assessments of some of them.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov blamed the impending file dump on “little thieves running around the Internet,” the Interfax news agency quoted him as saying.
WikiLeaks has not specified the documents’ contents or when they would be put online, but Pentagon spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan said officials were expecting a release “late this week or early next week.”
The Web site has said there would be “seven times” as many secret documents as the 400,000 Iraq War logs it published last month.
Turkish media said the planned release includes papers suggesting that Ankara helped al-Qaeda militants in Iraq and that the US helped Iraq-based Kurdish rebels fighting against Turkey — potentially explosive revelations for the two allies.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Turkey did not know what the documents contained.
“This is speculation,” he said on CNN Turk. “But as a principle, tolerating or ignoring any terrorist action that originates in Turkey and targets a neighboring country, particularly Iraq, is out of the question.”
Israel has also been warned of potential embarrassment from the latest release, which could include confidential reports from the US embassy in Tel Aviv, Haaretz newspaper said, citing a senior Israeli official.
WikiLeaks has become closely associated with Australian hacker Julian Assange. Sweden recently issued an international warrant for his arrest, saying he is wanted for questioning over allegations of rape and sexual molestation.
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