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US briefed Palestinians on WikiLeaks cache

Nov. 28, 2010 6:57 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 17, 2011 9:43 P.M.)
By: George Hale

BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- The United States has informed the Palestinian government in Ramallah that some of the hundreds of thousands of diplomatic cables set for release by the whistle-blowing group WikiLeaks will deal with US-Palestinian relations.

Washington's message, delivered by phone to the Office of the President a few days in advance of the scheduled release, was quick and to the point: Don't overreact.

"They aren't making a big deal out of it, and they hope we won't either," a senior Palestinian official told Ma'an, speaking on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue. "But when they're telling us 'Don't overreact,' that basically translates as 'There's something you're not going to like.'"

According to the message from the US, some of the leaked cables will confirm assumptions about America's support for Israel over the Palestinians in the peace process. They will also articulate Washington's stance against the inter-Palestinian reconciliation talks, the PA has been told.

The US has in recent days briefed other allies like Australia, Britain, Canada, Israel and Turkey, according to officials in those countries, ahead of the massive distribution of material expected late Sunday.

But as far as the Palestinians are concerned, the expected disclosure will confirm more US policy than it exposes, the source said. "It's already known that the Americans are against reconciliation. It's known that they love [Fatah strongman] Muhammad Dahlan. And it's known that they, frankly, love Israel."

A spokesman for the PA denied knowledge of the conversation.

A spokesman for President Mahmoud Abbas did not return calls.

The US declined to confirm if either the PA or Israel had been briefed. State Department spokeswoman Nicole Thompson told Ma'an that it was not a "far-fetched" possibility, however. "US officials have been reaching out to our global counterparts over the past few days about the possibility of leaked information," she said.

The Israelis were also keeping a low profile hours ahead of the release. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel, a close US ally, would not be "the center of international attention."

Israel was not warned by the Americans about any specific sensitive materials, he said.

"In our contacts with the Americans, as you know we have constant contacts with them, there was no specific details about what was to be revealed regarding us," Netanyahu told reporters.

WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange said earlier Sunday that Washington had "contacted the governments of almost every nation on earth to brief them about what some of these embarrassing revelations will do.

"They're in a rather unusual difficult position where it is not sure precisely what is going to be revealed. So it has been treading this rather thin line on briefing its allies on what it thinks we are going to reveal."

AFP contributed to this report.
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