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Hunt for Assange Heats Up, World Leaders' Fury Mounts

VOA News
02 December 2010

An international manhunt is on forWikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is reported to be in Britain, as fury mounts among world leaders from Russia to Australia about secret information leaked on the website.

British media are reporting Thursday that authorities know Assange is hiding in southeast Britain. The 39-year-old Australian is said to have provided a telephone number and address when he arrived in the country in October.

Classified U.S. diplomatic cables leaked by Assange's controversial website have revealed blunt and unflattering U.S. views on world leaders and irritated politicans worldwide.

A secret memo that apparently originated from the U.S. Embassy in Moscow says Russia is so corrupt it is a virtual "mafia state." The cable refers to Moscow as a "kleptocracy" with the Kremlin and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin at the center.

Responding to the leaked cables, Mr. Putin told CNN in an interview that the United States should not interfere in Russia's internal affairs.

Interpol has released a "red notice" for Assange, who is wanted in Sweden on accusations of rape and sexual molestation.

Assange's British lawyer, Mark Stephens, told CNN Wednesday that British police know his exact location.

British authorities say they are waiting for Sweden to reissue the arrest warrant that was invalid because of a procedural error. Swedish authorities said Thursday a new warrant would be issued.

An international arrest warrant was issued in August by Swedish prosecutors against theWikiLeaks chief. Stephens says his client, Assange, is being persecuted, not prosecuted.

WikiLeaks has been releasing thousands of classified documents this week, roiling the diplomatic world. Working hard to repair the damage, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said the leak of State Department documents "will not in any way" interfere with American diplomacy.

But Undersecretary of State William Burns said in Washington the release of the classified papers byWikiLeaks has "substantially hurt" U.S. diplomatic efforts. Burns told a U.S. congressional committee the disclosures are a "despicable breach of trust."

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