Vatican says leaks do not reflect views of Holy See

The Vatican described the most recent leaks from US cables yesterday as a matter of "extreme seriousness". The cables from the US embassy at the Vatican describe its leadership as out of touch, and criticise their refusal to allow officials to testify before an Irish commission investigating child abuse by clerics. Cables have revealed that information requested by the 2009 Murphy Commission – which reported on allegations of abuse within the Catholic Church in Dublin – "offended many in the Vatican", who felt that the Irish government had "failed to respect and protect Vatican sovereignty during the investigations".

The deputy chief of mission at the US embassy to the Vatican, Julieta Valls Noyes, stated that an attempt to involve the Vatican in the Irish child-abuse investigation was "an affront to Vatican sovereignty".

A statement released by the Vatican over the weekend said: "Naturally these reports reflect the perceptions and opinions of the people who wrote them and cannot be considered as expressions of the Holy See itself, nor as exact quotations of the words of its officials. Their reliability must, then, be evaluated carefully and with great prudence, bearing this circumstance in mind."

Pope Benedict's Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, upon being described as a "Yes Man" in the cables, was quoted as saying: "I am very proud to be described as a 'Yes man', given that this truthfully reflects my support for the pastoral work of the Pope."

The Vatican's daily newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, did not report on the latest leaks whilst the newspaper's editor, Giovanni Maria Vian, said the Vatican's statement "distanced itself in a sober fashion from the perceptions and opinions" presented in the cables.

The US embassy condemned "in the strongest terms" the leaking of such documents and promised that their relationship of co-operation would not be compromised as a result.

Meanwhile, members of the conspiracy to kill the dissident Alexander Litvinenko with a radioactive poison were being followed by Russia until warned off by the British secret services, a former KGB officer claimed.

The allegation was contained in a memo detailing a meeting between the former KGB agent, Anatoliy Safonov, and Henry Crumpton, an ex-CIA bureau chief when they had dinner together in Paris in 2006.

The meeting took place shortly after Litvinenko had been murdered and, if true, the allegations would suggest worrying incompetence within the British secret services. However, without corroboration the claims are perhaps more likely to be an attempt by Russia to spread disinformation to cloud its own role in the murder.

The memo was written by US embassy staff in Paris two weeks after Litvinenko died in London from polonium poisoning and note that Safonov claimed: "Russian authorities in London had known about and followed individuals moving radioactive substances into the city but were told by the British that they were under control before the poisoning took place."

One of the embassy officials observed that Safonov's comments suggested Russia had no involvement in the murder but that he failed to offer any further details.

Other sources have previously claimed that the killing would have been impossible without the backing of senior people in the Kremlin.

Crumpton ran CIA operations in Afghanistan becore becoming the US ambassador fopr counter terrorism. Safonic was formerly a KGB general but when he met Crumpton in Paris he was a special presidential representative. The meeting was held to discuss how Russia and the US could work together against terrorism.

* It emerged last night that leaked US embassy cables sugegsted that the British security services offered to pass sensitive files to the US government concerning the 1989 murder of Pat Finucane, a prominent civil rights lawyer. The cables, published by WikiLeaks, were written by the US ambassador to Dublin, James C Kenny, who reported that the head of MI5, Eliza Manningham-Butler, had offered to hand over all evidence her agency had relating to the inquiry to the US envoy to Ireland, Mitchell Reiss.