WikiLeaks unfurls more cables as founder stuck behind bars

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LONDON: WikiLeaks shrugged off the jailing of its founder by publishing a new tranche of secret diplomatic cables on Wednesday, heaping more embarrassment on the United States and some of its closest allies.

After Julian Assange spent his first night behind bars as a remand prisoner in London, his website revealed Washington had branded Australia’s ex-premier Kevin Rudd as a "mistake-prone control freak" and that the British government was relieved when its Scottish counterparts freed the Lockerbie bomber.

Assange’s son meanwhile said he hoped his father’s detention in Britain on Tuesday to answer accusations of rape in Sweden would not end up in his extradition to the US to answer possible charges about the leaks.

The pressure on WikiLeaks has been steadily mounting, with key sources of funding choked off and Assange having been refused bail.

But after vowing that it would not be silenced, the site showed its ability to ruffle feathers was unimpaired with its latest revelations.

Rudd, now Australia’s foreign minister, tried to laugh off the confidential assessment by the US embassy in Canberra that he made foreign policy blunders.

Rudd frustrated colleagues by being a "control freak" who was "obsessed with managing the media cycle rather than engaging in collaborative decision making," extracts of cables published by the Sydney Morning Herald said.

While he was prime minister, he also "deeply offended" Australia’s closest ally in 2008 by aggressively pushing for a meeting with then president George W. Bush in Washington, only to cancel two days later, the papers showed.

Rudd said the United States, not Assange, was to blame for the leak of cables, saying it had problem with its diplomatic security.

"When you’ve got a quarter of a million cables pecking around out there, and on top of that you have people who have had access in the US system to these sorts of cables in excess of two million people, that’s where the core of the problem lies," Rudd told commercial radio.

There were also potential red faces in Britain whose then Labour government publicly distanced itself from the decision by the devolved Scottish government to free the Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset Ali Mohmet Al-Megrahi last year.

But dispatches from the US embassy in Tripoli showed that Britain faced threats from Libya of "dire consequences" if Megrahi — who is suffering from cancer — died in a Scottish prison.

Among the threats, including the cessation of all British commercial activity in Libya and demonstrations against British facilities.

The dispatches also showed the British ambassador in Tripoli "expressed relief" about Megrahi’s imminent release.

"They could have cut us off at the knees," Vincent Fean, the British ambassador, is cited as saying.

And there were also embarrassing revelations in connection with another US ally, Saudi Arabia, as cables painted a picture of a buzzing party scene inside princes’ mansions in Jeddah replete with alcohol, drugs and sex.

Visa suspended all payments to WikiLeaks on Tuesday, the day after its rival MasterCard Worldwide took a similar step. The banking arm of the Swiss post office has also closed a WikiLeaks account set up by Assange.

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