US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says the leak of hundreds of thousands of secret diplomatic documents is an attack not only against the United States but the international community as well and erodes trust among nations.
In her first public comments since the weekend release of the classified State Department cables, Clinton said Monday that online whistle-blower WikiLeaks acted illegally in posting the material. She said the Obama administration was "aggressively pursuing" those responsible for the leak.
"This disclosure is not just an attack on America's foreign policy interests," Clinton said, "it is an attack on the international community: the alliances and partnerships, the conversations and negotiations that safeguard global security and advance economic prosperity.
"It puts people's lives in danger, threatens our national security and undermines our efforts to work with other countries to solve shared problems," she told reporters at the State Department.
"The United States deeply regrets the disclosure of any information that was intended to be confidential, including private discussions between counterparts or our diplomats' personal assessments and observations," she told reporters.
'Iran poses a very serious threat'
According to the Guardian newspaper, the documents report that Saudi King Abdullah has repeatedly urged the United States to attack Iran's nuclear program, quoting him at one point as saying: "cut off the head of the snake."
Clinton acknowledged that the newly released cables that revealed deep concerns among Arab world leaders about Iran's nuclear ambitions have a basis in reality.
"It should not be a surprise to anyone that Iran is a great concern," she said, adding that the comments reported in the documents "confirm the fact that Iran poses a very serious threat in the eyes of her neighbors."
The White House, Pentagon and State Department have all said that they are tightening up procedures to ensure that such disclosures do not occur again.
Clinton said the release of such documents undermines US efforts to work with other countries but she was confident US relations would "withstand" the challenge posed by the disclosures.
Clinton's comments came before she left Washington Monday on a four-nation tour of Central Asia and the Persian Gulf. She alluded to discussions she expects to have about the leaked documents with officials from Europe and elsewhere. Some of those diplomats may be cited in the leaked documents, which if so will confront her with uncomfortable conversations.
She said, however, that in warning various foreign officials about the release of the cables, some had joked to her that their governments' assessments of American leaders were even harsher than those found in the leaked US files.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report
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