Pakistan criticised the WikiLeaks release for highlighting concerns that enriched uranium could be diverted from its nuclear programme to build a secret weapon.
The US has long feared that Islamic extremists in Pakistan could target the country’s nuclear programme in an attempt to steal a weapon or, more likely, the materials needed to build one.
Pakistan has always said it is confident its nuclear security is good enough to prevent this from happening – a view supported publicly by the US But Wikileaks reveals the US has doubts and has clashed with Pakistan over the issue.
“We condemn the irresponsible disclosure of sensitive official documents,” said a Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman.
According to the leaks, the US has mounted an unsuccessful secret effort since 2007 to remove from a Pakistani reactor highly enriched uranium that American officials fear could be diverted for use in an illicit nuclear device.
Rumours that the US is intent on seizing Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal have contributed to strong anti-American sentiment in the country despite frequent denials by US officials.
The documents could prove embarrassing for other countries allied with Pakistan as well.
The king of Saudi Arabia reportedly called Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari the greatest obstacle to the country’s progress.
“When the head is rotten, it affects the whole body,” he is quoted as saying.
A presidential spokesman dismissed the reported comment, saying “President Zardari regards Saudi King Abdullah as his elder brother.” Iraq’s foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari criticised the leak but declined to comment on the specific content of the leaks simply calling them “unhelpful and untimely.”
The documents detail concerns by US officials in Baghdad about Iran’s influence on the new democracy there.
In one cable US diplomats describe how Iran spends millions annually to Iraqi surrogates.
Meanwhile Australian police were investigating whether any of their laws were broken by the leaks.
Attorney General Robert McClelland said a range of options were being considered by government agencies in response.
He said there were “potentially a number of criminal laws” that could have been breached.
Defence Minister Stephen Smith said that a cross-government committee was studying the documents to ascertain what damage could be done by their release.
“We need to take it ... step by step, but our starting and endpoint is essentially protecting Australia’s national interest,” Mr Smith said.
“This is an act which again one has no option but to absolutely condemn it. It potentially puts national security interests and it puts the safety and welfare of individuals at stake.”