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WikiLeaks fallout: US defends spying on foreign diplomats

November 30, 2010 09:19 IST

Defending United States diplomats after WikiLeaks' revelations that they were spying on United Nation's officials from several nations including India, a top American official on Tuesday said the country's representatives were involved in building relationships like their foreign counterparts.

"Our diplomats are doing what diplomats do around the world every day, which is build relationships, negotiate, advance our interests, and work to find common solutions to complex problems," US envoy to the UN Susan Rice said.

"And I want to just underscore that in the complex world in which we live, the work that US diplomats do here in the United Nations and around the world is indispensable to our national security and substantially advances our shared interests in international peace and security," she added.

Cables, leaked by whistleblower site WikiLeaks, suggested that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton asked for 'biographical and biometric information' to be collected on India's envoy to the UN Hardeep Singh Puri among others. Biometric information includes fingerprints, palm prints and iris recognition.

"Biographical and biometric information on key NAM/G77/OIC Permanent Representatives, particularly China, Cuba, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan, South Africa, Sudan, Uganda, Senegal, and Syria; information on their relationships with their capitals," the cable said.

It, however, does not explicitly name Puri who joined the UN in May 2009. The cable was sent from Clinton's office in August 2009. Clinton described G4 member nations -- Brazil, Germany, India, and Japan -- as 'self-appointed front- runners' for a permanent UN Security Council seat, according to another cable. These cables were also sent out to the US embassy in New Delhi.

When asked if the cables were authentic, Rice said, "I'm not going to get into commenting on classified material or alleged classified material and its contents."

"This has been a time when the United States, under President Obama's leadership, has made enormous progress in repairing and rebuilding our relationships with partners and allies around the world," she added.

According to the cables, the State Department directed American diplomats at the UN to obtain mobile phone numbers, email addresses, passwords, personal encryption keys and credit card numbers of other diplomats and top UN officials.

The directive also sought information on "UN leadership dynamics and Budget and Management Reform."

The UN, meanwhile, said that it was not in a position to comment on the authenticity of the document but was trying to obtain more information and will respond appropriately.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon had been informed by the US on Sunday afternoon before the documents had been published, UN spokesperson Farhan Haq said.

Haq also pointed out that a 1946 treaty on 'privileges and immunities' of the UN states that its offices 'shall be immune from search, requisition, confiscation, expropriation and any other form of interference, whether by executive, administrative, judicial or legislative action'.

Betwa Sharma In United Nations
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