World News

Saudi royal: Punish WikiLeaks source "vigorously"

MANAMA (Reuters) - A senior Saudi royal demanded on Sunday that the source of U.S. embassy cables published by WikiLeaks be “vigorously punished” and suggested the credibility of America’s diplomats had been hurt by the disclosures.

“If diplomats and leaders can’t exchange their views freely on the matters that affect them, then we are all in trouble,” Prince Turki al-Faisal told a Gulf security conference.

One notable leak cited Saudi King Abdullah as urging the United States to attack Iran’s nuclear installations. He was reported to have advised Washington to “cut off the head of the snake” while there was still time.

It was one of several disclosures confirming the depth of suspicion of Shi’ite Muslim Iran among Sunni Arab leaders, especially in leading Sunni power Saudi Arabia.

Prince Turki, a former ambassador to London and Washington and former head of the kingdom’s intelligence service, said the WikiLeaks furor underscored that cyber security was an increasing international concern.

“So it is incumbent not just on the world community but on the U.S., where these leaks came from, to not just be extra vigilant but to try to restore the credibility and the legitimacy of their engagement with the rest of us, and ensure that there are no more leaks to be faced in the future.”

“Whoever is responsible must be vigorously punished,” said Prince Turki, the brother of veteran Saudi Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal.

On December 1 a WikiLeaks spokesman said the website’s staff did not know if a former U.S. Army intelligence analyst detained by military authorities was the source of the cables.

Bradley Manning, 23, is being held at a Marine base near Washington in connection with the disclosure of U.S. secrets. U.S. officials have declined to say if the cables he is accused of mishandling are the same ones that WikiLeaks made public last week.

Reporting by William Maclean; Editing by Peter Graff