WikiLeaks founder to meet British police

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was Monday arranging to meet with British police, his lawyer said, as the net tightened around the man behind the release of a hoard of secret US diplomatic cables.

Swedish authorities want to quiz the elusive 39-year-old Australian -- whose website is in the process of releasing tens of thousands of US cables -- on suspicion of crimes including rape.

Assange's lawyer, Mark Stephens, said British police had telephoned him to say they have received an extradition request from Sweden.

Stephens told AFP the meeting would be with British police and would take place in Britain -- although he refused to confirm widespread rumours that Assange was already in the country.

"The arrangements I have been making are for him to come and meet the British police," said Stephens, without giving a date for the interview.

The news came after a court in Stockholm issued an arrest warrant for Assange on November 18 for questioning on suspicion of "rape, sexual molestation and unlawful coercion" in Sweden in August.

Assange has denied the charges and Stephens said Sunday that the pursuit of his client had "political motivations".

Earlier Monday, Swiss authorities shut down one of Assange's bank accounts with the Swiss Post Office's banking arm saying he had provided false information in his application.

"PostFinance has ended its business relationship with WikiLeaks founder Julian Paul Assange," the bank said in a statement.

WikiLeaks had advertised the PostFinance account details online to "donate directly to the Julian Assange and other WikiLeaks Staff Defence Fund," giving an account name of "Assange Julian Paul, Geneve."

Meanwhile, a French judge declined to force web provider OVH to shut down the WikiLeaks site, after the government called for it to be kicked out of France.

French Industry Minister Eric Besson demanded WikiLeaks be banned from French servers after the site took refuge there on Thursday, after being expelled from the United States.

In one of its most explosive leaks of US secrets so far, WikiLeaks on Monday divulged a list of key infrastructure sites around the world that, if attacked by terrorists, could critically harm US security.

The website released a State Department cable from February 2009 asking US missions to update a list of infrastructure and key resources whose loss "could critically impact" the country's public health, economic life and national security.

The list detailed undersea cables, key communications, ports, mineral resources and firms of strategic importance in countries ranging from Britain to New Zealand, via Africa, the Middle East and China.

Also listed were European manufacturers of vaccines for smallpox and rabies, an Italian maker of treatment for snake-bite venom, and a German company making treatment for plutonium poisoning.

Compilation of the list would help "prevent, deter, neutralize or mitigate the effects of deliberate efforts by terrorists to destroy, incapacitate or exploit" sites deemed of "vital" importance to the United States, the cable said.

Britain condemned the release, which gave locations of British undersea cables, satellite systems and defence plants, as "damaging to national security".

Security analysts said the leak posed a serious danger.

"This could give ideas to all sorts of people, not only Islamic terrorists," said Eric Denece, the head of the French Centre for Intelligence Research.

"Animal rights extremists, criminal networks, far-right or far-left groups, anarchists: this could help them put in place a list of priorities."

The release will add to the political storm engulfing WikiLeaks and Assange, who broke cover on Friday to say in an online chat that he had boosted his security after receiving death threats.

The website is already battling to secure its avenues for financial donations online, and has been hop-scotching across servers and legal jurisdictions to evade a total shutdown.

Among its latest revelations:

-- the United States accused Saudi Arabia of being a source of terror funding.

-- European Union President Herman Van Rompuy told a US ambassador that Europe no longer believed in Afghanistan and that 2010 may be the last chance for success

-- Former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd warned US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton force might be needed against China "if everything goes wrong".

© 2010 AFP

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