Turkey's Erdogan slams WikiLeaks cables as "slander"

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday accused U.S. diplomats of spreading “gossip” and “slander” after leaked State Department cables alleged corruption in his government and portrayed him as an Islamist.

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a news conference with Croatia's Prime Minister Jadranka Kosor in Ankara November 26, 2010. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

The website WikiLeaks this week began posting hundreds of thousands of confidential diplomatic messages, including some that show a complex, difficult relationship between the United States and Turkey, the only Muslim member of NATO.

“The unserious cables of American diplomats, formed from gossip, magazines, allegations and slander are spreading worldwide via the Internet,” Erdogan said in comments broadcast live by the NTV news channel.

He suggested the release of the trove of cables may be “propaganda” aimed at damaging relations between the United States and its allies.

“Are there disclosures of state secrets, or is there another aim? Is the publication of these cables a full disclosure of all secrets, as the site claims? Or is it an operation in which certain documents, within a clear timetable, are filtered through a censor?

“Is it carrying out a veiled, dark propaganda? Are there efforts to affect, manipulate relations between certain countries?,” he said.

A 2004 dated cable by then-U.S. ambassador Eric Edelman said: “We have heard from two contacts that Erdogan has eight accounts in Swiss banks; his explanations that his wealth comes from the wedding presents guests gave his son and that a Turkish businessman is paying the educational expenses of all four Erdogan children in the U.S. purely altruistically are lame.”

Erdogan has denied he has any money in Swiss bank accounts and threatened to file a lawsuit over the charges.

The diplomatic messages at times show concerns that European Union candidate Turkey is shifting its allegiances from the West and Israel toward Iran and other Muslim countries since Erdogan took office in 2002.

Edelman’s cables also portray Erdogan as an authoritarian, distrustful leader of his ruling AK Party and say that he believes God appointed him to lead Turkey.

The AK Party traces its roots to a banned Islamist movement, but denies its a religious grouping. It is gearing up for a general election planned for June, in which Erdogan is seeking a third term.

Reporting by Ayla Jean Yackley; Editing by Ron Popeski