* Foreign Ministry wants Assange to train researchers
* Whereabouts of Australian citizen Assange are unknown
(Rewrites throughout, adds government statement, byline)
By Hugh Bronstein
QUITO, Nov 30 Ecuador on Tuesday invited the
founder of the WikiLeaks whistleblower website to train
Ecuadorean researchers, days after the site caused an
international uproar by releasing sensitive U.S. documents.
Julian Assange, the 39-year-old Australian at the center of
the scandal, could work freely in Ecuador and was welcome to
seek residence as well, the Foreign Ministry said.
The South American country is part of a leftist bloc of
governments in South America, including Venezuela and Bolivia,
that have been highly critical of U.S. policy in the region.
More than 250,000 State Department cables were obtained by
WikiLeaks and given to media groups, which began publishing
stories on Sunday exposing the inner workings of U.S.
diplomacy, including candid and embarrassing assessments of
WikiLeaks previously had released U.S. documents on the
wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The recent batch of leaked cables show U.S. Secretary of
State Hillary Clinton questioned the mental health of
Argentina's President Cristina Fernandez, asking diplomats to
find out if she was under medication. [ID:nLDE6AT00J]
"The government ... invites Julian Assange to show
information related to Latin American countries," the
Ecuadorean statement said. "The objective would be to see this
information first hand."
"Assange could do investigative work and train researchers
in Ecuador," it said.
Assange's whereabouts are not known and he is believed to
move from country to country. He had been seeking residency in
Sweden but is now wanted there on sexual abuse charges that the
former hacker says are part of a conspiracy against him.
Ecuadorean Deputy Foreign Minister Kintto Lucas told local
media the government was attempting to get in touch with
Assange to invite him to the country.
"We are inviting him to give conferences and, if he wants,
we have offered him Ecuadorean residency," Lucas told local
media. The Foreign Ministry said any request for residency
would be considered under the normal rules of the country.
The U.S. State Department has cut off a military computer
network from its database of diplomatic cables due to the
uproar, a senior U.S. official said on Tuesday.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the
system was the U.S. military's Secret Internet Protocol Router
Network, known as SIPRNet, believed to have been the ultimate
source for the cables obtained by the whistleblower website.
(Editing by Sandra Maler)