Foreign leaders play down release of diplomatic cables

NETANYAHU’S VIEW The leaks prove that the Arab world agrees Iran is the chief danger to the Middle East, the Israeli prime minister said. NETANYAHU’S VIEW
The leaks prove that the Arab world agrees Iran is the chief danger to the Middle East, the Israeli prime minister said.
By Debbi Wilgoren
Washington Post / November 30, 2010

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WASHINGTON — Foreign governments reacted with a mixture of denials and dismissiveness yesterday to the massive leaking of US diplomatic cables, questioning the decision to make the material public but also insisting, for the most part, that the revelations were either untrue or unlikely to affect world events.

The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, accused the United States of purposely leaking the confidential cables, some of which discussed Arab nations’ concerns about Iran’s nuclear program and whether it should be contained by diplomatic efforts or destroyed.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the cables provide proof that the Arab world agrees with his country’s assessment that Iran is the chief danger to the Middle East.

Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry defended its refusal to allow US officials to visit a nuclear reactor that the United States helped build in the 1960s or remove highly enriched uranium from it. The uranium had been provided by the United States.

“We said no, because it’s now our property, and we will not return it,’’ Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said in a statement. “This only shows that Pakistan is very sensitive about its nuclear program. . . . No one can touch Pakistan’s nuclear facilities and assets.’’

Basit blasted the “mischievous’’ reports based on the leaked documents, especially the parts that include criticism of Saudi Arabia by Pakistani officials.

“We consider the extremely negative reports carried on Pakistan-Saudi relations attributed to WikiLeaks as misleading and contrary to facts,’’ Basit said. “Pakistani leadership, government, and the people of Pakistan hold the leadership and the people of Saudi Arabia not only in very high esteem but as true friends and brothers.’’

Iraq’s foreign minister, Hoshyar Zebari, called the release of the diplomatic cables damaging and “the timing terrible.’’

The cables included communiques about Iranian manipulation during Iraq’s parliamentary election in March, including the alleged funneling of between $100 million and $200 million to “Iraqi surrogates’’ annually.

The communiques also included a comment from King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia calling Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of Iraq a liar and saying he would never support him.

“There is a mere chance for government formation,’’ Zebari said, referring to the ongoing struggle in Iraq to forge a lasting government. “And it’s poisoned by all these reports.’’

In Tel Aviv, Netanyahu said his country wasn’t harmed by the revelations. On the contrary, he said, the leaks proved that many other Middle Eastern countries share Israel’s view that a nuclear-armed Iran “is the most fundamental threat’’ in the region.

In one cable, a Saudi official warns that if Iran is not stopped, gulf Arab states would develop their own nuclear weapons.

In a press conference yesterday, Ahmadinejad asserted that the leaked cables were published on the orders of the United States. “They are written by one part of the United States government, who publish them,’’ Ahmadinejad said. “After that, their own experts read them and base their opinions on them.’’

Some of the documents concerning Iran were based on meetings between US officials and leaders of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates, who reportedly indicated support for a US-led attack to end Iran’s nuclear program. When describing relations between Qatar and Iran, Qatari Prime Minister Hamad bin Jasim al-Thani was quoted as saying, “They lie to us, and we lie to them.’’

Tensions in the Persian Gulf region have risen since Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates bought $60 billion worth of American weapons. Simultaneously, the influence of Shi’ite political groups has caused increasing concern among the Sunni kingdoms of the Arabian Peninsula who say Iran is aiding the groups to expand its influence.

Publicly, relations between Iran and many key Arab states are friendly, but Iranian leaders often complain that some regional countries are facilitating the US presence in the region.