FOREIGN Minister Kevin Rudd has blamed America for the controversial release of thousands of classified documents by WikiLeaks, in an interview published today.
Mr Rudd said Australian WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange - currently in custody in Britain over rape allegations - was not to blame.
"Mr Assange is not himself responsible for the unauthorized release of 250,000 documents from the US diplomatic communications network," Rudd told Reuters.
"The Americans are responsible for that."
Mr Rudd's comments came as former prime minister John Howard said also that Mr Assange had not done anything wrong by publishing cables that contained "frank commentary".
Long day for Rudd
Mr Rudd's seemingly less-than-diplomatic comments were published at the end of a tough day for Mr Rudd, after leaked cables revealed a damning assessment of his abilities by US diplomats.
Messages from the US embassy in Canberra to US secretaries of state Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton over a number of years said Mr Rudd made "mistakes" and "significant blunders" in his management of foreign policy.
Mr Rudd said earlier today he didn't "give a damn" about the assessments, which were "water off a duck's back," The Australian reported.
Gillard, ambassador back Rudd
And he was backed by Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
"Kevin Rudd is a man who throughout his adult life has devoted himself to expertise in foreign policy," she said.
"He's bringing that expertise to bear for the Australian nation and doing an absolutely first class job."
Earlier in the day current US Ambassador Jeff Bleich also defended Rudd, saying they enjoyed a good working relationship and were "good mates," according to The Australian.
We'll help Assange - Rudd
Mr Rudd this morning vowed Australia would "absolutely" give consular support to arrested Assange, despite heavy criticism of his actions from the Gillard government.
"I'm the Foreign Minister of Australia and I'm responsible for the consular wellbeing of all Australians and, therefore, I just want to make it absolutely clear that, first of all, Mr Assange has contacted the Australian Consul-General in London and asked for consular support," Mr Rudd said.
"We have confirmed that we'll provide that, as we'd do for all Australian citizens.
"What we do with Australians in strife anywhere in the world is that we take the view that our responsibility is to ensure the consular rights and legal rights of all Australians abroad are protected. And that includes Mr Assange."
Mr Assange has been denied bail after British police arrested him on a Swedish warrant for alleged rape. The 39-year-old, who has denied the rape allegations, is due back in court on December 14.
John Howard says don't blame Assange
Mr Howard said Mr Assange had not done anything wrong by publishing cables that contained "frank commentary".
"Any journalist will publish confidential information if he or she gets hold of it, subject only to compelling national security interests.
"The issue is whether any of this material and the publication of it will endanger people lives or endangers individual countries.
"The bad people in this little exercise are the people who gave the information to him, because they're the people who breached the trust.
"They deserve to be chased and prosecuted."
Mr Howard said charges against Mr Assange were unrelated to the Wikileaks website, which continues to publish items from the promised 251,287 classified United States diplomatic cables it has in its possession.
"And I would expect the Australian government would ask for him to be dealt with like any other foreigner in that situation and that he be given the assistance he's entitled to," Mr Howard said.
He said claims that Mr Assange been abandoned by the Australian government were not entirely accurate.
"Any Australian citizen who leaves this country can't expect to carry any special protection under Australian law in another country.
"We are all subject to the laws of the country in which we operate."
Sourced: Sun Herald