* 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 (Reuters) - 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 world leaders.
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