Memos reveal US-Libya standoff over uranium
By LEE KEATH, Associated Press – 27 mins ago
AP – FILE – Seif al-Islam Gadhafi talks to reporters at the ancient city of Cyrene near the city of al-Bayda
CAIRO – As it dismantled its nuclear weapons program, Libya sparked a tense diplomatic standoff with the United States last year when it refused to hand over its last batch of highly enriched uranium to protest the slowness of improving ties with Washington, leaked U.S. diplomatic memos reveal.
The monthlong standoff, which has not previously been made public, was resolved only after a call from U.S. Secretary of State HillaryRodham Clinton to Libya’s foreign minister, apparently to underline Washington’s commitment to warming relations. After the call, Libya allowed Russia to take away the uranium in December 2009.
But for that month, U.S. officials issued frantic warnings that the 11.5 pounds (5.2 kilograms) of highly enriched uranium was vulnerable to start leaking or be stolen, since it was sitting at Libya’s Tajoura nuclear facility with only a single armed guard.
The incident illustrates Libya’s unpredictability as it shakes off its longtime pariah status and rebuilds ties with the U.S. and the world. The series of memos released by the WikiLeaks website to the Lebanese newspaper Al-Akhbar, which published them this week, also shows the efforts of the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli — which reopened in 2007 after a closure of nearly 30 years — to track Libya’s opaque and often confusing politics. Several memos speculate on the jockeying for succession to power among the sons of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi — Seif al-Islam, Mutassim and Khamis.
“Burgeoning sibling rivalry between Gadhafi’s progeny is near inevitable,” reads a November 2009 embassy memo. Gadhafi “has placed his sons … on a succession high wire act, perpetually thrown off-balance, in what might be a calculated effort by the aging leader to prevent any one of them from authoritatively gaining the prize.”
Gadhafi’s 2003 decision to renounce terrorism and dismantle Libya’s secret nuclear, chemical and biological weapons development program was a key step in opening the door to normalization with the U.S and the West. Since that time, the U.S., Russia and other countries have been transporting centrifuges, uranium and other nuclear equipment out of Libya. The U.S. and the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, have declared Libya’s nuclear and chemical weapons programs fully dismantled.
The standoff was a last-minute surprise.
On Nov. 23, 2009, a Russian cargo plane landed at Tripoli, expecting to take the last of Libya’s highly enriched uranium, contained in seven containers known as casks. Then the Libyans informed the Russians and Americans that the material would not be handed over — and the plane left without the cargo, according to a Nov. 25 memo from the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli.
The embassy raised the alarm, warning that Tajoura was “lightly guarded” and that U.S. experts had seen “only one security guard with a gun” there. It said it asked the Libyans to beef up security and remove a loading crane at the site “to prevent an intruder from using it to remove the casks.” It also warned that within three months, the casks would start to leak and release radioactive material.
Two days later, Seif al-Islam Gadhafi — seen as a the main reform proponent in Libya — told the ambassador that the shipment was halted because Libya was “fed up” with the slow pace of relations between Tripoli and Washington, another memo reported.
Specifically, he said Libya wanted deals to purchase military equipment and other “compensation” for its dismantled facilities.
More broadly, he said the U.S.-Libyan relationship was “not going well” and pointed to slights against his father during his visit to New York the previous September for the U.N. General Assembly — including protests in several suburbs against Gadhafi’s attempts to pitch a ceremonial Bedouin-style tent to stay in, and the refusal to allow Gadhafi to visit Ground Zero.
In the memo, the embassy recommended that Clinton contact Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa with a “general statement of commitment to work with the Libyans to move the relationship forward,” coupled with a “strong” demand that the uranium be released and “not be held hostage.”
On Dec. 3, Clinton called Kusa with “the statement of commitment,” a later memo said, without specifying the content of the message. Soon after, the embassy reported that the Libyans promised the uranium would be released.
On Dec. 20, the Russian cargo plane returned, the uranium was loaded and taken to Russia the next day.
“Today’s flight marked the successful completion of Libya’s commitments to dismantle its nuclear weapons programs,” the embassy reported.
Obama, troops cheer each other in Afghan visit
By BEN FELLER, AP White House Correspondent – 1 hr 11 mins ago
AP – President Barack Obama greets troops at a rally during an unannounced visit at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan – In a rousing holiday-season visit, President Barack Obama on Friday told cheering U.S. troops inAfghanistan they’re succeeding in their vital mission fighting terrorism. But after he flew in secrecy for 13 hours to get here, foul weather kept him from nearby Kabul and a meeting to address frayed relations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai
Obama’s surprise visit to the war zone, his second as president, came 10 days before he is to address the nation about a new review of U.S. strategy to defeat the Taliban and strengthen the Afghan government so American troops can begin leaving next year.
The trip also came at a particularly awkward moment in already strained U.S. relations with Afghanistan because of new and embarrassing leaked cables alleging widespread fraud and underscoring deep American concerns about Karzai.
There was no mention of that as the president spoke to more than 3,500 service members packed into a huge airplane hangar. After his remarks, he spent more than 10 minutes shaking hands, going around the hangar three times as they grabbed his hand and held cameras and cell phones high to take photos.
Obama stayed on this U.S. military base, the headquarters of the 101st Airborne Division, the entire time he was here, just under four hours. He huddled with U.S. Gen. David Petraeus, the top NATO commander in Afghanistan and U.S. Ambassador Karl Eikenberry. And he visited wounded soldiers at a base hospital, personally dispensing five Purple Hearts to wounded service members.
“Because of the progress we’re making, we look forward to a new phase next year, the beginning of the transition to Afghan responsibility,” Obama told the troops. He thanked them for their efforts, noting the difficulty in being away from home during the holidays, and they repeatedly cheered him in return.
He said the U.S. was continuing “to forge a partnership with the Afghan people for the long term.” And he said, “we will never let this country serve as a safe haven for terrorists who would attack the United States of America again. That will never happen.”
There are now about 150,000 coalition forces in Afghanistan, roughly 100,000 of them Americans. The U.S. and its NATO partners agreed last month in Lisbon, Portugal, to begin turning over control to local Afghan authorities in 2011, with a goal of completing that transition by the end of 2014.
White House officials said gusty winds and swirling dust led them to cancel Obama’s planned helicopter visit to Kabul, about 30 miles north of here. A backup plan for a secure videoconference was also scrapped.
Waheed Omar, a Karzai spokesman, said the Afghan leader was “not upset” that the palace visit was scuttled. He noted that the two leaders had met during the conference in Lisbon and discussed the situation in Afghanistan in detail.
Obama, who has tripled U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan, has come under increasing pressure to demonstrate progress in turning the tide against the Taliban insurgency in the battle that has now gone on for more than nine years. In his remarks to the troops, Obama cited “important progress.”
“We said we were going to break the Taliban’s momentum. And that’s what you’re doing. You’re going on the offense, tired of playing defense, targeting their leaders, pushing them out of their strongholds. Today, we can be proud that there are fewer areas under Taliban control and more Afghans have a chance to build a more hopeful future,” he said.
He thanked the troops for their work and sacrifice “on behalf of more than 300 million Americans.”
“You give me hope. You give me inspiration. Your resolve shows that Americans will never succumb to fear,” he said to cheers and shouts.
Petraeus, the commander Obama is looking to to turn things around, introduced Obama to the troops and teased the president about the basketball injury to his lip last week. Presenting him with a 101st Airborne T-shirt, Petraeus told the president: “No one will mess with you if you wear this, Mr. President.”
At the base hospital, Obama met with platoon members from the unit that lost six soldiers this week in brazen killings by an Afghan border policeman who turned fire on his U.S. trainers.
Mentioning that visit and his meeting with what Petraeus called “wounded warriors,” Obama told the assembled troops: “I don’t need to tell you this is a tough fight. … It’s a tough business. Progress comes slow. And there are going to be difficult days ahead. Progress comes at a high price.”
Newly leaked U.S. cables show American diplomats portraying Afghanistan as rife with graft to the highest levels of government, with tens of millions of dollars flowing out of the country and a cash transfer network that facilitates bribes for corrupt Afghan officials, drug traffickers and insurgents.
A main concern in the cables appears to be Karzai himself, who emerges as a mercurial figure. In a July 7, 2009, dispatch, Eikenberry describes “two contrasting portraits” of the Afghan president.
“The first is of a paranoid and weak individual unfamiliar with the basics of nation building and overly self-conscious that his time in the spotlight of glowing reviews from the international community has passed,” the cable says. “The other is that of an ever-shrewd politician who sees himself as a nationalist hero. … In order to recalibrate our relationship with Karzai, we must deal with and challenge both of these personalities.”
Obama aides later said the subject of the cables didn’t come up during the Obama-Karzai phone call, which lasted 15 minutes. Ben Rhodes, a White House national security aide, told reporters Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had already spoken to Karzai about WikiLeaks disclosures.
After the long, unannounced flight from Washington, Obama landed in darkness under intense security.
He stepped off Air Force One clad in a brown leather jacket that he was also wearing when he spoke to troops. Plans of his trip into the war zone were tightly guarded.
Despite the upcoming review results, White House officials on the trip played down the significance of his upcoming speech. No big policy changes are expected, they said.
To deal with any doubts about reasons for the Karzai meeting being canceled, reporters traveling with Obama were escorted outside the air field hangar to get a glimpse of the conditions. The wind was blowing strongly, kicking up dust clouds as troops streamed in to hear Obama. An American flag whipped against its pole. At the presidential palace, U.S. armored vehicles were securing entrances. Carpets were ready to be unrolled.
The war in Afghanistan is the nation’s longest after Vietnam, launched in the weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. This has been the deadliest year to date for U.S. forces in Afghanistan. More than 1,300 have died here since the war began, more than 450 in 2010.
The visit comes a year after Obama announced he was sending an additional 30,000 troops to try to gain control — and then get the United States out — of a worsening conflict. Obama’s plan is to start pulling U.S. forces out of Afghanistan in July.
Associated Press writers Deb Riechmann in Kabul and Tom Raum in Washington contributed to this report.
(This version corrects length of flight to 13 hours, not 14.)
US, South Korea reach highly coveted trade deal
By JULIE PACE and KEN THOMAS, Associated Press – 50 mins ago
- S.Korea trade deal in limbo after talks failure
WASHINGTON – The U.S. and South Korea have reached an agreement on America’s largest trade pact in more than a decade, a highly coveted deal the Obama administration hopes will boost U.S. exports and create tens of thousands of jobs at home.
After a week of marathon negotiations, representatives from both countries broke through a stalemate Friday morning on outstanding issues related to the automobile industry, which have been a sticking point in the talks. The agreement would be the largest U.S. trade dealsince the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, with Canada and Mexico and would bolster U.S. ties with the fast-growing South Korea economy.
South Korea is agreeing to allow the U.S. to lift a 2.5 percent tariff on Korean cars in five years, instead of cutting the tariff immediately. The agreement also allows each U.S. automaker to export 25,000 cars to South Korea as long as they meet U.S. federal safety standards and allows the U.S. to continue a 25 percent tariff on trucks for eight years and then phase it out by the 10th year. South Korea would be required to eliminate its 10 percent tariff on U.S. trucks immediately.
President Barack Obama hailed the agreement as a “landmark trade deal” that would support at least 70,000 U.S. jobs.
“We are strengthening our ability to create and defend manufacturing jobs in the United States, increasing exports of agricultural products for American farmers and ranchers and opening Korea’s services market to American companies,” Obama said in a statement.
South Korean President Lee Myung-bak praised the deal as bringing huge economic benefits to both countries and further boosting the two nations’ alliance.
“This agreement is meaningful in that it has laid the basis for a mutual win-win by reflecting interests for the two countries in a balanced manner,” Lee said in a statement posted on the presidential website.
The White House had hoped to strike a deal last month during Obama’s trip to Seoul for the G-20 economic summit, but both countries were unable to broker a compromise on issues pertaining to trade of autos and beef. U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and his counterpart, Korean Trade Minister Kim Jong-hoon, resumed negotiations outside Washington this week.
The agreement did not address issues with the beef trade. The U.S. had sought greater access to the beef market in South Korea, which restricts imports of older U.S. meat. A senior administration official said discussions on beef are ongoing. The official insisted on anonymity to discuss private negotiations.
The wider agreement would eliminate tariffs on more than 95 percent of industrial and consumer goods within five years, a move that the U.S. International Trade Commission estimated would increase exports of U.S. goods by at least $10 billion. The deal would also open up South Korea’s vast $560 billion services markets to U.S. companies.
Lee expressed hope for a quick ratification of the deal by the legislatures of the two countries. Obama administration officials offered no timeline for ratification on Capitol Hill.
The South Korea deal has been widely supported by those in the private sector and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has criticized other administration policies as antibusiness.
“This agreement will create thousands of new jobs, advance our national goal of doubling exports in five years, and demonstrate that America is once again ready to lead on trade,” Chamber president Tom Donohue said Friday. Ford CEO Alan Mulally said the deal was, “a transformational agreement” that would open one of the most closed auto markets in the world to U.S. manufacturers.
The chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea, David Ruch, called the trade deal “a historic juncture.” And California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who visited South Korea during an Asia trade mission in September, issued a statement urging Congress to ratify “this vital agreement as soon as possible.”
The deal was a bright spot for Obama on a day the Labor Department reported weak economic weak economic news: the U.S. unemployment rate climbed to 9.8 percent and job growth slowed to a trickle. Obama has pledged to aggressively seek new markets for U.S. exports in South Korea and other countries as a way to spur job growth at home.
The agreement also won Obama some rare support from the GOP.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the agreement was, “a positive development” toward promoting economic growth and private sector job creation. Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., said the agreement would make U.S. exports more competitive and create more opportunities for American companies to create jobs.
Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., said he was deeply disappointed that the deal didn’t address the ongoing issues with the beef trade. Baucus said he would reserve judgment on the larger trade agreement until those issues were resolved.
The U.S. and South Korea reached a deal in 2007 that slashed tariffs and other barriers to commerce. But the pact has been in limbo since then, due in part to political changes in both countries and the Obama administration’s demands that South Korea make concessions on trade in autos and beef. Administration officials hoped finalizing the South Korea deal could lead to breakthroughs on other pending agreements with Panama and Colombia.
Bilateral trade between South Korea and the U.S. totaled $66.7 billion in 2009, down sharply from $84.7 billion in 2008 as global commerce suffered during the economic downturn.
The U.S. auto industry would be one of the biggest benefactors of the agreements. Figures compiled by auto industry groups in South Korea show that it exported 449,403 vehicles to the U.S. last year, while South Koreans purchased 6,140 vehicles made by American manufacturers, based on vehicle registrations.
“This trade agreement, once finalized, will provide jobs, products, and renewed sense of partnership to both the United States and South Korea,” said Cody Lusk, president of the American International Automobile Dealers Association.
But Lori Wallach, director of the liberal-leaning advocacy group Public Citizen, criticized the deal, saying it would lead foreign investors to move U.S. jobs overseas and put Obama’s political future in peril.
“Choosing to advance Bush’s NAFTA-style Korea free trade agreement rather than the new trade policy President Obama promised during his campaign will mean more American job loss and puts the White House at odds with the majority of Americans,” Wallach said in a statement.
Associated Press writer Kwang-tae Kim in Seoul contributed to this report.
Spain military takes over air traffic control
By ALAN CLENDENNING and HAROLD HECKLE, Associated Press – 1 hr 5 mins ago
Passengers wait for news about their flights at the Barajas airport in Madrid.
MADRID – Spain’s military took control of the nation’s airspace Friday night after air traffic controllers staged a massive sickout that stranded at least 330,000 travelers on the eve of a long holiday weekend, forcing the government to shut down Madrid’s big international hub and seven other airports.
About six hours after the nation descended into total travel chaos, Deputy Prime Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba announced that the Defense Ministry had “taken control of air traffic in all the national territory.” He said the army would make all decisions on air trafficcontrol, organization, planning and supervision.
If enough controllers do not show up for work Saturday to restore normal flight operations, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero plans to declare a national emergency that would force them to do so, Rubalcaba said. No-show controllers will face unspecified criminal charges punishable by “serious prison time,” he said.
Spanish flagship carrier Iberia SA said all of its flights in and out of Madrid were suspended until at least 11 a.m. Saturday, but other airlines did not give guidance for when flights might resume.
The controllers abandoned their posts amid a lengthy dispute over working conditions and after Zapatero and his ministers on Friday approved a package of austerity measures — including a move to partially privatize airports and hand over management of the Madrid and Barcelona airports to the private sector.
Angry passengers waited in huge lines for hours until giving up when it became clear their flights would not depart. Air traffic controllers meeting to plot strategy at a hotel near Madrid’s airport were heckled and filmed by stranded passengers as the controllers entered.
“To the unemployment line with you all!” one man yelled at the controllers, in footage shown by Spanish National Television.
Handfuls of passengers made it out of Madrid to destinations like Barcelona and Lisbon, Portugal, on buses provided by airlines. But the vast majority were forced to go home or to hotels with no information on when they might make their canceled flights. Some slept in the airports.
“It’s a disgrace, how can a group of people be so selfish as to wreck the plans of so many people?” said dentist Marcela Vega, 35, unable to travel from Madrid to Chile with her husband, 5-year-old son and baby boy.
Spain’s airport authority, known as Aena, said authorities were in contact with Europe’s air traffic agency,Eurocontrol, and the United State’s FAA about how best to deal with arriving international flights.
Aena chief Juan Ignacio Lema called the sickout “intolerable” and warned controllers to return to work, or face disciplinary action or criminal charges.
“We’re asking the controllers to stop blackmailing the Spanish people,” Lema said.
Spain’s air traffic controllers have been in bitter negotiations for a year with state-owned Aena over wages, working conditions and privileges. The dispute intensified in February after the government restricted overtime, cutting the average annual pay of controllers from about euro350,000 ($463,610) to around euro200,000 ($264,920).
The sickout also closed four airports in the Canary islands off Africa’s coast, a favorite winter destination for sun-seeking Europeans, and airports in prime Mediterranean tourism spots of Ibiza, Palma de Mallorca and Menorca.
Spanish Development Minister Jose Blanco convened an emergency meeting and his ministry announced that “controllers have begun to communicate their incapacity to continue offering their services, abandoning their places of work.” Blanco later told reporters that authorities were forced to close airspace around Madrid for safety reasons.
“We won’t permit this blackmail that they are using to turn citizens into hostages,” Blanco said
The controllers’ union has complained for weeks that many members have already worked their maximum hours for all of 2010, and that all 2,000 are overworked and understaffed. Friday’s sickout was not expected, but the union had warned it could mount one over the Christmas holiday. Spanish air traffic controllers are prohibited by law from going on strike.
Aena said most controllers had left their workstations or never showed up, and that only 10 controllers remained on duty in Madrid to handle emergencies.
Some controllers began to return to work late Friday, including about half of the normal staff in Barcelona, where several flights took off by early Saturday. But Rubalcaba said the number of returning controllers was spotty, and that some who showed up refused to perform their duties.
Madrid’s sprawling Barajas airport was empty after midnight. It had 1,300 flights scheduled for Friday, but it wasn’t clear how many had taken off and landed before the sickout.
More than 5,000 flights were scheduled for the nation Friday, and about 3,000 departed or landed before the sickout began in the late afternoon.
Monday is a national holiday marking the Day of the Spanish Constitution, and Wednesday is a religious holiday. Many Spaniards take advantage of them for a five-day weekend or a week of vacation, and about 4 million people had flights booked for the period in the nation of 46 million.
Many of Spain’s famed football players were forced to head on trains and buses with their teams so they could make it to weekend games.
Jorge Sainz contributed from Madrid.
WikiLeaks fights to stay online amid attacks
By RAPHAEL G. SATTER and PETER SVENSSON, Associated Press –1 hr 6 mins ago
AP – The Internet homepage of Wikileaks is shown in this photo taken in New York, Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2010
LONDON – WikiLeaks became an Internet vagabond Friday, moving from one website to another as governments and hackers hounded the organization, trying to deprive it of a direct line to the public.
The organization that has embarrassed Washington and foreign leaders by releasing a cache of secret — and brutally frank — U.S. diplomatic cables found a new home after an American company stopped directing traffic to wikileaks.org. Then French officials moved to oust it from its new site.
By late Friday, WikiLeaks was up in at least three new places.
“The first serious infowar is now engaged. The field of battle is WikiLeaks. You are the troops,” tweeted John Perry Barlow, co-founder of the online free-speech group Electronic Frontier Foundation. His message was reposted by WikiLeaks to its 300,000-odd followers.
Legal pressure increased on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange after Swedish authorities revised a warrant for his arrest in response to procedural questions from British officials.
British law enforcement authorities have refused to say if or when Assange would be arrested. His lawyers have said they believe they would be notified of any move to arrest him but had yet to be served with a warrant as of Friday afternoon.
The 39-year-old Australian is wanted on allegations of rape and other sex crimes that emerged after a trip to Sweden in August.
Assange said that his arrest would do nothing to halt the flow of American diplomatic cables being released by his group and newspapers in several countries, and he threatened to escalate the rush of information if he is taken into custody.
Hundreds of cables have been published by WikiLeaks and several newspapers in recent days. Assange said that all of the cables had already been distributed in a heavily encrypted form to tens of thousands of people.
If something happens to him, he suggested, the password needed to decrypt the data will be released and all the secrets will go out at once.
“History will win,” Assange said in a Web chat with readers of The Guardian newspaper, one of the mediaorganizations helping to coordinate the documents’ publication. “The world will be elevated to a better place. Will we survive? That depends on you.”
WikiLeaks doesn’t depend entirely on its website for disseminating secret documents; if it were knocked off the Web, the nationless organization could continue to communicate directly with news organizations. But the site provides a direct line to the public, fulfilling the organization’s stated goal of maximum distribution for the secret documents it receives from mainly anonymous contributors.
In an online chat with readers of The Guardian, Assange promised to improve the availability of the website as soon as possible.
“Rest assured I am deeply unhappy that the 3 1/2 years of my work and others is not easily available or searchable by the general public,” Assange said.
EveryDNS — a company based in Manchester, New Hampshire, that had been directing traffic to the website wikileaks.org — stopped doing so late Thursday after cyber attacks threatened the rest of its network. WikiLeaks responded by moving to a Swiss domain name, wikileaks.ch — and calling on activists for support.
The loss of support from EveryDNS just a minor annoyance because the site can leap from one name to the next, said Fraser Howard, a researcher with Internet security firm Sophos.
“The whack-a-mole analogy is fairly good,” he said.
The Swiss address directs traffic to servers in France, where Industry Minister Eric Besson called it unacceptable to host a site that “violates the secret of diplomatic relations and puts people protected by diplomatic secret in danger.”
The general manager of French web hosting company OVH, Octave Klaba, confirmed that it had been hosting WikiLeaks since early Thursday, after a client asked for a “dedicated server with … protection against attacks.”
He said the company has asked a judge to decide on the legality of hosting the site on French soil.
“It is not up to the political realm or to OVH to request or decide the closure of a site, but rather up to the courts,” Klaba said.
WikiLeaks has been brought down numerous times this week by what appear to be denial-of-service attacks. In a typical such attack, remote computers commandeered by rogue programs bombard a website with so many data packets that it becomes overwhelmed and unavailable to visitors. Pinpointing the culprits is difficult. The attacks are relatively easy to mount and can be performed by amateurs.
The attacks started Sunday, just before WikiLeaks released the diplomatic cables. To deal with the flood of traffic, WikiLeaks moved to Amazon.com’s Web hosting facility, which has vast numbers of servers that can be rented as needed to meet surges.
But Amazon booted WikiLeaks from the site on Wednesday after U.S. congressional staffers started asking the company about its relationship to WikiLeaks. Amazon said it ousted the organization in part because the leaks could endanger innocent people.
The U.S. is conducting a criminal investigation into WikiLeaks’ release of the diplomatic cables. Attorney General Eric Holder said this week that the leaks jeopardized national security, diplomatic efforts and U.S. relationships around the world.
In Washington, the lawmaker expected to take over the House Judiciary Committee in January, Republican Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, said he plans to conduct hearings on the matter.
Republican Sen. John Ensign of Nevada introduced a bill to amend the U.S. Espionage Act that would give prosecutors more flexibility to pursue a criminal case against Assange and his organization. But there was little chance of passing a new law in the remaining weeks of the congressional session.
Assange also risks legal action in his homeland, where Australia said it would detain Assange if possible in response to the warrant filed in the Swedish case by Interpol.
Wikileaks.ch, is owned by the Swiss Pirate Party, formed two years ago to campaign for freedom of information. Its officials said they gave Assange information on how to seek asylum in Switzerland.
Svensson reported from New York. Louise Nordstrom reported from Stockholm, Jenny Barchfield from Paris, Holly Ramer from Manchester, New Hampshire, John Heilprin from Geneva and Larry Margasak from Washington.