'Illegal' WikiLeaks release won't harm US ties: Germany

29th November 2010, Comments 0 comments

Germany on Monday blasted WikiLeaks' release of US diplomatic cables as illegal and a potential security threat but said even the more embarrassing revelations would not undermine transatlantic ties.

"We have close and friendly relations with the US government, and they will remain so ... These are documents that were acquired illegally and which are being used to make money," Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said.

"A few gossipy comments about European politicians are not exactly welcome but they are not really important. But in other cases, people's lives could be put at risk," he told reporters.

Government spokesman Steffen Seibert declined to comment on the content of the secret State Department documents, in which US diplomats made disparaging comments about Chancellor Angela Merkel and other top officials.

But he said the exposure of confidential diplomatic communications, for example about the Iranian nuclear programme or the Middle East peace process, could endanger Western interests.

"We regret this publication -- these are confidential reports that were published illegally and on which we will not comment in detail," Seibert told a regular press briefing. "Foreign policy needs confidentiality."

Westerwelle, who said US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton phoned him on Friday to express her "deep regret" about the leaks, said that the documents released so far contained inaccuracies.

"We are seeing that not everything that is in there is correct ... Just because it's in there doesn't mean it's true," he said.

"The German-American relationship is mature, it has grown so robust over the decades, it is such a deep friendship based on shared values that it will not be seriously damaged by this publication," Seibert said.

The documents include a message attributed to a US diplomat in Berlin dated March 24, 2009 in which Merkel is described as "risk averse and rarely creative."

Westerwelle, Merkel's vice-chancellor, also comes in for harsher criticism in the secret documents, being described as incompetent, vain and critical of America.

© 2010 AFP

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