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Australia vows to back Assange

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SYDNEY — Australian diplomats will support detained WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd vowed Wednesday, even after Assange accused Canberra of “disgraceful pandering” to his foes.

Australia’s consul-general to Britain has already spoken to Assange, arrested in London Tuesday on a warrant seeking his extradition to Sweden on sex assault charges, while diplomats attended his court hearing, officials said.

“We have confirmed that we’ll provide (consular support), as we’d do for all Australian citizens,” Rudd said a day after his boss Prime Minister Julia Gillard branded WikiLeaks’ publication of leaked diplomatic cables “grossly irresponsible.”

“We’ll be providing him with a letter soon which indicates we’ll be prepared to provide consular visits and any other level of consular support concerning his well-being and his legal rights,” Rudd said on commercial television.

His comments came hours after Assange turned himself in on charges his lawyers have branded politically motivated as his organization’s snowballing revelations sowed panic and fury in governments across the world.

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In an opinion piece written before his arrest and published in the Australian newspaper on Wednesday, Assange tore into the Australian government for turning on him and backing US claims that his revelations were illegal.

“Australians should observe with no pride the disgraceful pandering to (calls by US figures for Assange to be hunted down) by the Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her government,” he wrote.

“The powers of the Australian government appear to be fully at the disposal of the US as to whether to cancel my Australian passport or to spy on or harass WikiLeaks supporters.

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“We are the underdogs. The Gillard government is trying to shoot the messenger because it doesn’t want the truth revealed, including information about its own diplomatic and political dealings.”

Rudd vowed to defend Assange’s rights even as confidential US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks painted an unflattering picture of the former prime minister as an impulsive “control freak” who had made diplomatic blunders.


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