U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has arrived in Kazakhstan for a four-day visit to Central Asia with a new item on her agenda: attempting damage control after the release by WikiLeaks of thousands of secret, often unflattering, U.S. diplomatic documents.
Clinton will participate in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe summit on Wednesday and Thursday in Astana, Kazakhstan.
The summit includes leaders from 56 countries, including Canada, France, Italy and Russia. Many of the countries involved are mentioned in the cables that were first published Sunday.
On Monday, U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Clinton would "have a number of conversations … this week with her counterparts and other leaders" during the summit.
Clinton has roundly condemned the WikiLeaks release, calling it "a matter of great concern."
"The United States deeply regrets the disclosure of any information that was intended to be confidential," she told reporters Monday.
But she stressed that U.S. foreign policy is "not set through [the] documents" but in Washington. "Our policy is a matter of public record as reflected in our statements and our actions," she said.
Among the foreign leaders mentioned in the cables are:
- Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, described as "extremely dangerous."
- French President Nicolas Sarkozy, nicknamed "the emperor with no clothes."
- Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, said to like "wild parties."
- Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, described as an "alpha dog."
While Clinton tried to mend fences in Asia, a State Department official said instructions to American diplomats to collect data on foreign leaders, as reported Tuesday, came from managers in U.S. intelligence organizations.
The official, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said the request did not indicate that U.S. diplomats were required to spy, adding that they were free to ignore the request and most of them did exactly that.
The request asked U.S. diplomats to obtain DNA, iris scans and other biometric data on foreign government and UN officials.