The United States has accused WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange of making "wild assertions" about it in an attempt to divert public attention from justice he faces in Sweden.
Responding to a question at a daily press Briefing in Washington on Monday on the possibility of prosecuting Assange in the U.S., State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said that "he is making all kinds of wild assertions about us, when, in fact, his issue with the Government of the United Kingdom has to do with whether he's going to go stand - face justice in Sweden for something that has nothing to do with WikiLeaks."
Assange, who stunned the world by publishing a series of classified U.S. military documents and diplomatic cables, has taken asylum at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London since June 19. The South American country granted him political asylum on Thursday.
In his first public appearance in two months, Assange on Sunday thanked his supporters from a balcony at the Ecuadorian Embassy in the British capital. He read out a statement calling on the United States to end its "witch-hunt" against Wikileaks and to release Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier who has been charged with aiding the enemy by passing secret files to WikiLeaks. Manning has been under detention for the last two years awaiting trial.
Nuland said Assange, who is facing charges of sexual misconduct, was "clearly trying to deflect attention away from the real issue, which is whether he's going to face justice in Sweden, which is the immediate issue. So that case has nothing to do with us. It's a matter between the UK, Sweden, and now Ecuador has inserted itself," she added.
Under Sweden's request, Assange was arrested by the London Metropolitan Police in December, 2010 on a European arrest warrant on alleged sex crimes.
He is accused by the Swedish authorities of one count of unlawful coercion, two counts of sexual molestation and one count of rape, all alleged to have been committed in Stockholm in August 2010. Assange denies allegations of rape and sexual assault, made by two Swedish women who had served Wikileaks as volunteers, saying that the sex was consensual.
Nuland reiterated that the whistle-blower was not going to face persecution in the United States. She made it clear that the U.S. government was not trying to negotiate Assange's extradition for questioning with the Ecuadorean government.
A meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) in Ecuador on Sunday expressed solidarity with Ecuador in granting asylum to Assange.
According to Nuland, Washington "doesn't see any role for the OAS (Organization of American States) in this issue."
by RTT Staff Writer
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