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European police on alert for WikiLeaks founder

WASHINGTON — WikiLeaks was on the defensive on several fronts Wednesday, scrambling to remain on the Internet and post more U.S. diplomatic documents while its fugitive founder Julian Assange was targeted by a European arrest warrant on Swedish rape charges. Inc. prevented WikiLeaks from using the U.S. company's computers to distribute embarrassing State Department communications and other documents, WikiLeaks said Wednesday. The WikiLeaks site was unavailable for several hours before it moved back to servers owned by its previous Swedish host, Bahnhof, which are housed in a protective Cold War era bunker.

At the same time, Swedish officials intensified legal pressure on Assange by asking European police to arrest him on rape allegations that have shadowed him for weeks. Swedish director of public prosecution Marianne Ny said that the European arrest warrant had been issued for Assange in connection with the allegations filed against him in that country.

Amazon's move to kick Wiki­Leaks off its servers came after congressional staff called the company Tuesday to inquire about its relationship with WikiLeaks, Sen. Joe Lieberman, the Connecticut independent, said Wednesday.

"The company's decision to cut off WikiLeaks now is the right decision and should set the standard for other companies WikiLeaks is using to distribute its illegally seized material," Lieberman said in a statement. He added that he would have further questions for Amazon about its dealings with WikiLeaks.

The White House said Wednesday it was taking new steps to protect government secrets after WikiLeaks' release of thousands of sensitive U.S. diplomatic cables. Officials said national security adviser Tom Donilon has appointed a senior aide to identify and develop reforms needed in light of the document dump.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs also spurned a call from Assange for Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to step down if she had any role in directing U.S. diplomats' spying on other foreign leaders. Gibbs called the demand "both ridiculous and absurd," saying in television news interviews that Clinton had done nothing wrong and that U.S. diplomats do not engage in spying.

Clinton was in Astana, Kazakhstan, enduring repeated comments about the WikiLeaks disclosures as she met with foreign officials at a conference of international leaders.

Among those she met with was Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who had been described in newly released U.S. diplomatic cables as "feckless" and a party animal.

"We have no better friend, we have no one who supports the American policies as consistently as Prime Minister Berlusconi has, starting in the Clinton administration, through the Bush administration, and now the Obama administration," she said during a summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

The WikiLeaks matter was discussed in virtually all of Clinton's private one-on-one meetings with European leaders and foreign ministers during the summit meeting Wednesday.

Assange's call for Clinton's resignation came in an online interview Tuesday with Time magazine from an undisclosed location. Assange said Clinton should step down "if it can be shown that she was responsible for ordering U.S. diplomatic figures to engage in espionage in the United Nations" in violation of international agreements.

State Department officials have acknowledged that secret instructions to American diplomats to gather sensitive personal information about foreign leaders originated from the U.S. intelligence community. But diplomats were not required to spy, the officials said.

Assange remained a fugitive Wednesday, shadowed by the Europe-wide arrest warrant.

Other developments

RUSSIA: Prime Minister Vladimir V. Putin responded Wednesday to criticism of Russia revealed in U.S. diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks, warning Washington not to interfere in Russian domestic affairs. His comments were made on CNN's Larry King Live. Asked about a cable that described President Dmitry A. Medvedev as "playing Robin to Putin's Batman," he said the author "aimed to slander one of us."

TURKEY: Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey on Wednesday reacted furiously to claims in a leaked U.S. State Department memo that he has money in Swiss bank accounts and said U.S. diplomats should be punished for allegations he branded as lies and gossip. The classified cable, released this week by WikiLeaks, is dated Dec. 30, 2004, from then-U.S. Ambassador Eric Edelman, who was assessing Erdogan's second year in power.

CHINA: China, one of the biggest Internet policers, took no chances with the latest online sensation and blocked the WikiLeaks website Wednesday amid potentially embarrassing claims made in leaked U.S. diplomatic memos posted there.

Times wires

European police on alert for WikiLeaks founder 12/01/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 1:26pm]
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