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WikiLeaks Changes Web Address After Shutdown

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The embattled whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks is back online with a new address, just hours after its previous domain name was shut down.

The website emerged today with a new Swiss web address, wikileaks.ch, although the site itself appears to be hosted in Sweden and France.

WikiLeaks' U.S. domain-name provider EveryDNS had withdrawn service to the site late on December 2, saying hacker attacks threatened access to the other 500,000 websites in its network.

AFP quoted Mark Stephens, the lawyer for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, as saying that the "sophisticated" efforts to take down the site might be part of a general effort to silence Assange.

"Somebody, probably a state actor, has taken control of literally hundreds of thousands of vulnerable computers across the world and got them all to dial in to the WikiLeaks website simultaneously," Stephens said.

The drop by EveryDNS was the latest setback in WikiLeaks' crusade to make hundreds of thousands of classified U.S. documents public.

It came just one day after Amazon.com evicted the controversial site from its servers under pressure from the U.S. Congress, which has questioned Amazon over its relationship with WikiLeaks.

Assange himself has gone into hiding after Sweden issued an arrest warrant for him on charges of rape and sexual assault, which he denies.

Assange, who holds Australian citizenship, claimed today that death threats had also been made against him and his WikiLeaks colleagues.

"We are taking the appropriate precautions to the degree that we are able when dealing with a superpower," Assange was quoted as saying on "The Guardian's" website.

WikiLeaks has embarrassed Washington by publishing almost half a million secret documents about the U.S.-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Many Upset

This week it began releasing scores of secret U.S. diplomatic cables. Their authenticity has neither been officially confirmed nor challenged. The leaked documents, however, have also upset some of the world leaders targeted in them.

U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton on December 2 expressed her regret to Argentinian President Cristina Kirchner and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari over their content.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev also addressed the controversy at a news conference on December 3 with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi in Sochi.

"These leaks are indicative. They show the full measure of cynicism in those assessments and judgments that prevail in the foreign policy of various states. In this case I'm talking about the United States," Medvedev said.

"[U.S. officials] have a right to such judgments, but when these judgments become public they can really harm international ties and affect the general spirit of relations."

Some of the leaked cables described Medvedev as playing "Robin" to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's "Batman" and portrayed Russia as a lawless country dominated by a corrupt elite.

The latest batch of leaked cables is likely to cause further anger in Washington and beyond.

In one document, the U.S. envoy to Afghanistan, Karl Eikenberry, brands President Hamid Karzai a "paranoid," "weak," and "overly self-conscious" leader.

Eikenberry is also quoted as saying Karzai fails to understand the "most rudimentary principles of state-building."

Another purported cable describing the predicted lineup of Karzai's new cabinet describes the agriculture minister as "the only minister that was confirmed about whom no allegations of bribery exist."

Britain's "The Guardian" daily, one of the few publications that obtained leaked documents directly from WikiLeaks, reported that the latest U.S. cables sharply criticize British troops' performance in Afghanistan.

The newspaper says the leaked documents "expose a devastating contempt for the British failure to impose security and connect with ordinary Afghans."

compiled from agency reports

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