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Leaking of secret papers "unfortunate" - U.N.'s Ban

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The leaking of confidential documents to WikiLeaks is unfortunate and will complicate international diplomacy, the U.N. chief said on Friday.

“It’s unfortunate that these confidential documents have been leaked,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told reporters in New York.

“But whatever the motivations of this leakage might be on the part of leakers, this will make it very difficult for the normal and reasonable conduct of business, particularly in the diplomatic world,” he said.

For weeks WikiLeaks’ founder, Australian computer hacker Julian Assange, and his colleagues have been releasing secret U.S. diplomatic cables on their website and teaming up with newspapers around the globe to amplify the impact of the disclosures, some of which have been highly embarrassing to the United States and other countries.

Ban himself was highlighted in one of the most damning cables published by WikiLeaks.

According to that cable, the State Department asked U.S. envoys at U.N. headquarters and elsewhere to procure credit card and frequent flyer numbers, mobile phone numbers, e-mail addresses, passwords and other confidential data from U.N. officials and foreign diplomats.

It mentioned Ban as a target for information-gathering activities by U.S. diplomats.

The U.N. chief declined to comment on Assange’s court case in Britain, where he is fighting a Swedish extradition request.

However, he said that the right to information should be tempered by the need for confidentiality.

Many countries, Ban noted, keep classified documents secret for periods of 30 years or more.

“There needs to be balance, fair balance between the right to know, the freedom of expression ... (in order) to preserve the necessary and confidential conduct of diplomacy which requires confidentiality,” he said.

Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; editing by Mohammad Zargham