The fallout spreads: how the world reacted to the leaked files

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Indy Politics


CLAIMS: Among the most astonishing revelations were those in secret directives from Hillary Clinton to US diplomats at the United Nations, requiring that they gather personal information about (or spy on) top UN officials, up to Ban Ki-Moon himself.

REACTION: "Having spent almost 25 years working for the Department of State and having seen and advanced many dumb ideas myself, I must admit this one is in a class by itself," said Aaron David Miller of the Wilson Centre in Washington. "To risk compromising the integrity of American diplomats in this kind of intelligence collection where the return can't possibly justify the risks makes no sense."

In a statement to reporters, the UN would not comment directly on the cables but did imply that spying on its activities was hardly necessary. "The UN is by its very nature a transparent organisation that makes a great deal of information about its activities available to the public and Member States," it said.

"UN officials regularly meet representatives of Member States to brief them on UN activities."

Former UK ambassador to the US, Sir Christopher Meyer, says it would be wrong to overact to the cables. "This is the usual vast bureaucratic laundry list dumped by the US intelligence establishment on diplomats all round the world," he said, adding he thought most US diplomats would simply ignore the request. "If I was an American diplomat at the UN, one thing I would say to myself is: 'It is not possible to get the credit cards, the biometric features, or the frequent flyer card of Ban Ki-moon or any of his staff'." DAVID USBORNE


CLAIMS: The US has secretly tried and failed to remove highly enriched uranium from Pakistan for years, according to the cables, "gravely" concerned worried it could be used to make an "illicit" nuclear device. Former US Ambassador Anne Patterson reported in May 2009 that Islamabad refused to schedule a visit by American technical experts, as a Pakistani official said if the local media learned of the removal, "they certainly would portray it as the US taking Pakistan's nuclear weapons".

REACTION: Pakistan defended the decision to deny the request to remove fuel from one of its nuclear reactors in Karachi. It reiterated its claim – always echoed publicly by the US – that its nuclear facilities were safe and not vulnerable to efforts by al-Qa'ida or other militants to steal or buy materials.

"No one can touch Pakistan's nuclear facilities and assets," foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said. "We condemn the irresponsible disclosure of sensitive official documents." The current US Ambassador, Cameron Munter, also condemned the leaks writing in a Pakistani newspaper that the US regretted the release of material "intended to be confidential". ANDREW BUNCOMBE


CLAIMS: Among the more incendiary claims is the suggestion that a number of Arab nations showed outright hostility to Iran. Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah reportedly told Washington to "cut the head off the snake" before Tehran got a nuclear weapon. It is also claimed that Iran obtained 19 advanced missiles capable of hitting Western Europe – a cache far more powerful than Washington had conceded.

REACTION: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told a press conference yesterday that the whole leak was an American contrivance designed to hand Barack Obama a propaganda victory.

"The material was not leaked, but rather released in an organised way," he said. And he insisted Iran and other countries in the region were "all friends with each other".

Press TV, Iran's broadcasting mouthpiece, likewise claimed that "analysts believe the recent document release is a scenario carefully orchestrated by US intelligence agencies to... lay the groundwork for military action against Iran."

The country's domestic media largely ignored the suggestion that other Arab states wanted to see Iran disarmed, as well as a report that supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has terminal cancer. ARCHIE BLAND


CLAIMS: One cable details how Israel discussed its planned offensive on Gaza with Egypt and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah party ahead of time, while another describes how Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said as opposition leader that he would never allow one single Palestinian refugee to return.

REACTION: Israeli leaders and commentators have reacted with a mixture of pride and self-vindication to the leaked cables, after missives largely supported what Israel has been saying in public for years, particularly on Iran. "I don't think Israel was harmed at all," Mr Netanyahu said, largely brushing aside cables outlining his controversial comments on Palestinian refugees. He said that the leaks would be bad for diplomacy, predicting officials would be more careful about what they put in confidential memos.

Ha'aretz newspaper noted that what Israeli officials say in public and what they say in private largely adds up, and "has no reason to be embarrassed by the leak." The only one who appeared red-faced was Mr Abbas, whose aide denied there were consultations with the Israelis in the lead-up to the Gaza War. CATRINA STEWART


CLAIMS: US diplomats in Rome regarded the relationship between Vladimir Putin and Silvio Berlusconi as unhealthily close, with the Italian premier described as the "mouthpiece of Putin". In addition, the US chargé d'affaires in Rome, Elizabeth Dibble, called Mr Berlusconi "feckless, vain and ineffective as a leader" and "politically weak" with "a penchant for partying hard".

REACTION: If Mr Berlusconi was seriously offended by US diplomats taking pot-shots at his private life, there wasn't much evidence of it yesterday. The Italian premier dismissed the dossiers as "claims from third- or fourth-level functionaries", which he blamed the "left-wing press" for publishing. "I, unfortunately, have never in my life participated in a 'wild party'," he said.

"Once a month I give dinners in my homes where everything happens in a correct, dignified and elegant way," he added. It has been alleged that his private parties involve drug use and large numbers of teenage prostitutes. But opposition leader Pier Luigi Bersani (Democratic Party) said: "There's little to laugh about; Berlusconi is damaging the reputation of Italy."

Foreign minister Franco Frattini appeared more concerned by the leaks, though, which he described as "The September 11 of world diplomacy" that "demonstrated the weakness of the US in terms of its security for sensitive information".


CLAIM: One of the cables said that the Beijing Politburo was behind the intrusion into Google computer systems in China, an operation that came as part of a government campaign of computer sabotage that also hit US government computers and the Dalai Lama.

REACTION: There was no official reaction in the state media to the Wikileaks revelations, but there was plenty of online interest. In the run-up to their publication, the Xinhua news agency ran sporadic news, but when they finally emerged, the coverage was restricted to how other countries were treated, rather than discussing China.

On the forum, there was much more detail about the revelations about China, with some describing the news as "just political gossip" and others taking a more strident tone. "Wikileaks will become the cause of the Third World War!" Zishaxiaoyu wrote. But some were intrigued. "This is interesting!!!" another wrote. "I hope one day there will be a Wikileaks in China!"


CLAIMS: Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel was branded "risk averse and rarely creative" by US diplomats, according to the cables, while Guido Westerwelle, her foreign minister, was described as "incompetent, vain and critical of America".

REACTION: Ms Merkel's coalition did its best to dismiss the cables as insignificant yesterday. Mr Westerwelle described the embarrassing disclosures as "irrelevant gossip" while a government spokesman insisted that the leaks would not seriously damage the "deep friendship" that existed between Berlin and Washington.

However John Kornblum, a former US ambassador to Germany who lives in Berlin, said the leaks amounted to a crisis for German-American relations.

"The era in which we could speak and say 'Don't worry it won't reach the papers' is over," he said.

Germany's conservative Die Welt newspaper warned that the leaks were a threat to diplomatic relations. "Publishing confidential diplomatic communiques serves nobody," the paper wrote. "Only an unimportant poseur, a fool or a terrorist would claim as much". TONY PATERSON