LONDON — U.S. allies around the world have been briefed by American diplomats about an expected release of classified U.S. files by the WikiLeaks website that is likely to cause international embarrassment and could damage some nations' relations with the United States.
The release of hundreds of thousands of State Department cables is expected this weekend, although WikiLeaks has not been specific about the timing. The cables are thought to include private, candid assessments of foreign leaders and governments and could erode trust in the United States as a diplomatic partner.
In Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron's spokesman, Steve Field, said Friday that the government had been told of "the likely content of these leaks" by U.S. Ambassador Louis Susman. "I don't want to speculate about precisely what is going to be leaked before it is leaked," Field said.
In Washington, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said U.S. diplomats were continuing the process of warning governments around the world about what might be in the documents. Many fear that the cables will embarrass the United States and its allies and reveal sensitive details of how the U.S. conducts relations with other countries.
"We are all bracing for what may be coming and condemn WikiLeaks for the release of classified material," he said. "It will place lives and interests at risk. It is irresponsible."
The Obama administration on Friday warned that the WikiLeaks release would endanger "lives and interests."
Italy's foreign minister, Franco Frattini, said he spoke Friday with the U.S. State Department, which told him that there would be documents regarding Italy in the leaks, "but the content can't be anticipated."
"We're talking about thousands and thousands of classified documents that the U.S. will not comment on, as is their custom," Frattini said.
The governments of Canada and Norway also said they had been briefed by U.S. officials. Israel's Foreign Ministry declined to comment on a report that it, too, had been informed.
In Iraq, U.S. Ambassador James F. Jeffrey told reporters that the leaks represent a serious obstacle to international diplomacy.
"We are worried about additional documents coming out," he said. "WikiLeaks are an absolutely awful impediment to my business, which is to be able to have discussions in confidence with people."
WikiLeaks has said the release will be seven times the size of its October leak of 400,000 Iraq war documents, already the biggest leak in U.S. intelligence history.
The United States says it has known for some time that WikiLeaks held the diplomatic cables. No one has been charged with passing them to the website, but suspicion focuses on U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, an intelligence analyst arrested in Iraq in June and charged in connection with an earlier leak.