The United States on Monday denied Julian Assange's assertion that Washington was orchestrating a "witch-hunt" for him, saying the WikiLeaks founder was making "wild" claims to deflect attention.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that the United States had nothing to do with attempts by Britain to extradite Assange, who is holed up in Ecuador's embassy in London and is wanted in Sweden over sexual allegations.
"He is making all kinds of wild assertions about us when in fact his issue with the government of the United Kingdom has to do with whether he's going to face justice in Sweden for something that has nothing to do with WikiLeaks, it has to do with charges of sexual misconduct," Nuland told reporters.
"He is clearly trying to deflect attention away from the real issue, which is whether he's going to face justice in Sweden," she told reporters.
"That case has nothing to do with us. It's a matter between the UK, Sweden and now Ecuador has inserted itself," she said.
Nuland, in an exchange with reporters, later clarified that Assange was not charged in Sweden but was wanted for questioning. Two female WikiLeaks volunteers in Sweden have accused Assange of sex crimes.
Assange says that the accusations are politically motivated and that he would eventually be extradited to the United States, where WikiLeaks angered authorities by releasing a trove of sensitive diplomatic correspondence.
"I ask President Obama to do the right thing -- the United States must renounce its witch-hunt against WikiLeaks," the 41-year-old Australian said Sunday in a speech from the balcony of the Ecuadoran embassy in London.
Nuland, in line with previous US statements, declined comment on the scope of US prosecution over WikiLeaks. A military court is trying Bradley Manning, a young solider suspected of leaking the documents to the activist website.
Ecuador's left-leaning president, Rafael Correa, has offered asylum to Assange but British authorities could seize the WikiLeaks founder if he leaves the embassy en route to the South American nation.© ANP/AFP