Key points in latest WikiLeaks revelations

December 9, 2010 12:00 am

, PARIS, Dec 9 – Key points in the latest secret US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks:

— The United States thinks China is a "pernicious economic competitor with no morals" whose booming investments in Africa are propping up unsavoury regimes, according to a February 23 cable by the US consul-general in Lagos.

The US assistant secretary of state for African affairs, Johnnie Carson, was quoting as giving the frank assessment in a meeting with oil executives in Nigeria.

"China is not in Africa for altruistic reasons," he said. "China is in Africa for China primarily."

— US officials pushed China to free dissident Liu Xiaobo, winner of the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize, in the weeks after he was first detained.

In late 2008, only two weeks after Liu was first held, then ambassador to China Clark Randt "urged the Chinese government to release him and stop harassing peaceful dissidents", according to a confidential memo.

Current US ambassador Jon Huntsman took up the cause in 2009, writing to Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi after Liu was imprisoned on subversion charges for co-authoring Charter 08, a manifesto for democratic reform in communist China.

— Documents showed that Washington put intense pressure on Berlin to not enforce arrest warrants against CIA agents involved in the 2003 abduction of a German citizen mistakenly believed to be a terrorist.

Khaled el-Masri, an unemployed car salesman of Lebanese origin, was captured in late December 2003 as he entered Macedonia on vacation. Local authorities mistook him for an Al-Qaeda operative with a similar name and turned him over to the CIA.

Masri said he was held and tortured in a secret US prison in Afghanistan before US agents realised their mistake and released him, five months later.

In a February 2007 cable, the US deputy chief of mission in Berlin, John Koenig, emphasised to German Deputy National Security Adviser Rolf Nikel "that issuance of international arrest warrants would have a negative impact on our bilateral relationship".

— A cable revealed that Nigeria\’s leadership was in total confusion over who was in charge early this year with then-president Umaru Yar\’Adua thought to be in a "semi-comatose state".

The cable, dated February 26, 2010, reported on a meeting between then-US ambassador Robin Renee Sanders and Goodluck Jonathan, who was Nigeria\’s acting president at the time. Jonathan became president in May after Yar\’Adua\’s death.

"Jonathan told the ambassador \’everyone\’s confused\’ about who is in charge of Nigeria," according to the document obtained by WikiLeaks and published by British newspaper The Guardian.

"There has been an increase in the level of uncertainty in the internal political situation following ailing President Yar\’Adua\’s return, which was shrouded in secrecy, during the early hours February 24."

— Senior Australian politicians insisted the country\’s sports minister was not a "spy" for Washington after cables reportedly revealed he was a "protected" source for the United States.

Mark Arbib, a key figure in June\’s overthrow of prime minister Kevin Rudd, was a valued contact in Canberra and met US diplomats "repeatedly" according to WikiLeaks memos published exclusively by the Sydney Morning Herald.

Elevated from minor portfolios to the Sports Ministry following Australia\’s August elections, Arbib was described as a "right-wing powerbroker and political rising star" who was influential in Rudd\’s inner circle.

— The US ambassador to Kenya warned that the East African country could descend into violence even worse than during the crisis that followed a disputed 2007 election unless reform was speeded up and corruption tackled.

Ambassador Michael Ranneberger reported in January that the "old guard" at the highest levels of the political elite was hindering progress, according to a cable revealed in The Guardian.

He singled out President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga as being part of the "vested interests" who benefit from a "lack of accountability with respect to governance, state resources, and the rule of law."


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