WikiLeaks' founder takes on Indian Prime Minister

India had earlier questioned the authenticity of cables published by a local newspaper

WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange told an Indian TV channel that the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was engaged in a deliberate attempt to mislead the public by suggesting that the veracity of cables between the U.S. government and its embassy and consulates in India cannot be established.

Since November last year, WikiLeaks has been publishing extracts of the cache of leaked diplomatic cables in partnership with certain newspapers. Indian newspaper The Hindu began publishing cables relating to India on March 15.

Their publication sparked off an uproar in India's Parliament after some cables suggested that India's ruling Congress party bribed members of parliament to survive a vote of confidence in 2008. At the time, leftist parties had withdrawn their support for the government as they objected to a civilian nuclear deal between India and the U.S.

The government of India cannot confirm the veracity, contents or even the existence of such communications, Singh told Parliament, denying that his party had bribed members of Parliament.

"There is no doubt, whatsoever, that the cables are authentic," Assange told NDTV in an interview that was broadcast on Monday.

"That does not mean every fact in them is correct. You have to look at their sources and how they gave this information," Assange said.

Despite having angered the Indian government, Assange said India was one of the countries where he could feel safe, along with Brazil. They are "big enough countries to be able to stand up to the sort of the U.S. interference, if they chose to do so", he said.

The "India Cables" have been accessed by The Hindu through an arrangement with WikiLeaks that does not involve a financial transaction or financial obligations on either side, the newspaper's editor N. Ram said in an introduction to the India cables on March 15. The India cache comprises 5,100 U.S. embassy and consulate cables relevant to India, though not all of them originating in India, Ram said.

Ram did not respond to emailed questions on how the newspaper had made contact with WikiLeaks and on the extent of editorial control his newspaper had in the publication of the cables.

The newspaper is publishing articles based on the cables, with links to the texts of the cables on its website.

WikiLeaks started to publish the leaked diplomatic cables from U.S. embassies around the world in November, with the support of five publications: Le Monde in France, El País in Spain, Der Spiegel in Germany, The Guardian in the U.K. and The New York Times in the U.S.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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John Ribeiro

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