24 Oct 2010

Iraqi PM criticises timing of Wikileaks release

10:00 pm on 24 October 2010

Iraq's prime minister has criticised the timing of the release by Wikileaks of almost 400,000 secret United States military documents about the conflict in Iraq.

Nouri Maliki's office has accused the whistle-blower of trying to sabotage his bid to form a new government by stoking up anger against national parties and leaders, especially the prime minister.

Mr Maliki is struggling to keep his job after inconclusive elections in March.

Disclosure aimed at revealing the truth

Wikileaks website insists its publication of the files is justified.

The documents suggest the US military turned a blind eye to torture by Iraqi security forces, as well as giving new insight into civilian killings and Iran's involvement in Iraq.

The Pentagon accuses Wikileaks of helping America's enemies. It says the release of secret documents on the war could endanger American troops and Iraqi civilians.

The documents give details of the Iraq war over six years.

Website founder Julian Assange says the documents cover the deaths of about 104,000 people over six years.

He says the documents detail the death of each person with precise geographic coordinates and the operation under which they died.

Mr Assange says he hopes the disclosure will be a subject for debate in the United States.

The BBC reports the figures appear to contradict earlier claims that the US did not keep records of civilians killed.

Wikileaks previously published more than 70,000 secret papers about the war in Afghanistan in July.

An investigation into this leak has focused on US army intelligence analyst Bradley Manning, who is now in custody.

Little interest in Iraq

The US military is preparing to withdraw its 50,000 remaining troops from Iraq by the end of 2011.

Wikileaks says the documents have been edited to remove any information that could harm individuals.

According to the BBC, there appears there has been relatively little interest in the disclosures in Iraq.

Australian view

Australian defence minister Stephen Smith says the leaks could create a security risk for Australia.

The Australian Defence Department set up a taskforce to investigate similar documents earlier published by the website about the war in Afghanistan.

Mr Smith says the same taskforce will check the latest documents.

He said a few of the previous documents mentioned Australian operations, but had caused no damage.