Agence France-Presse

Julian Assange at UNGA: Obama is exploiting the Arab Spring (VIDEO)

Assange is picture through a camera viewfinder as he speaks at a press conference in central London on February 27, 2012.


Carl Court

Julian Assange has accused Barack Obama of trying to make political hay out of the Arab Spring, in a retort to the US president's address to the United Nations General Assembly.

Assange made his own speech to a sideline meeting via videolink from London, where he remains confined to the Ecuadorean embassy under threat of extradition to Sweden for questioning over alleged sex crimes.

Looking "tired and unwell," according to the Guardian, Assange told diplomats that Obama's claims to support democracy and free speech in the Middle East were simply part of a re-election campaign.

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"It must come as a surprise to Tunisians for Barack Obama to say the US supported the forces of change in Tunisia," Assange said, as cited by the Associated Press, pointing to America's previously friendly relations with many of the Arab dictators who were later overthrown.

Referring to the Tunisian street vendor whose self-immolation sparked the country's uprising, Assange said: "Mohamed Bouazizi did not set himself on fire so that Barack Obama could get re-elected."

Instead, Assange claimed, the protests were partly inspired by WikiLeaks' publication of classified US diplomatic cables – a move for which the site's sources and staff are facing what Assange called "persecution."

He urged President Obama to "join the force of change, not in fine words but in fine deeds."

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Assange claims that American authorities will seek to prosecute him, if he can be extradited to Sweden and from there, the US.

According to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald, declassified US Air Force counter-intelligence documents reveal that Assange has been designated an "enemy of the state" by the US military, putting him into the same legal category as Al Qaeda terrorists and the Taliban.

Ecuador has granted Assange's request for asylum, but he can't leave the London embassy without being arrested by British police, who are under orders to ensure that he is sent to Sweden.

Ecuadorean foreign minister Ricardo Patiño has said he will seek to negotiate a solution with Britain on Thursday, the Guardian reported. Otherwise, Patiño warned, the impasse could see Assange confined to the embassy for as long as 10 years.

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