Assange will go to Sweden: diplomats

AUSTRALIAN government officials believe that WikiLeaks is ''broken'' and that Julian Assange has no alternative other than to surrender for extradition to Sweden to face sexual assault allegations.

They do not rule out the WikiLeaks publisher's eventual extradition to the United States.

As Assange nears six months' confinement in Ecuador's London embassy, security and diplomatic sources in Canberra have privately expressed confidence that WikiLeaks is ''effectively moribund''.

It is thought that the transparency group's dwindling financial support will ''sooner or later dry up'' leaving Assange ''irrelevant and with little alternative other than to leave Ecuador's embassy''.

''This is slowly playing itself out, over months, maybe more than a year, but there's only one likely outcome - extradition to Sweden,'' a diplomatic source said last week.

One security official claimed WikiLeaks' ''inner group'' now comprised only ''four to six people, including Assange'' and that its website was ''running on empty'' financially.

''WikiLeaks doesn't have an electronic drop box any more; they haven't published anything of any great consequence for many months. There's just a Twitter feed. This phenomenon has run its course,'' he said.

In June, Assange sought asylum in Ecuador's embassy after Britain's highest court rejected his appeal against extradition to face sexual assault allegations in Sweden.

Ecuador granted his asylum application on the grounds that extradition to Sweden would risk further extradition to the United States to face conspiracy or other charges arising from WikiLeaks obtaining thousands of leaked US military and diplomatic secret reports.

European Commissioner for Home Affairs Cecilia Malmstrom this week called on Assange to ''just go'' to Sweden to ''answer the questions'', dismissing the threat of his onward extradition as ''purely theoretical''.

Australian officials expect little to change in his circumstances for the next few months, at least until after the court martial of US Army private Bradley Manning in March. Manning is accused of leaking the files.

US military prosecutors may present further evidence concerning WikiLeaks' contact with and alleged assistance to the US Army private who faces a possible life sentence for ''aiding the enemy'' by disclosing classified military information.

A government legal adviser described Assange as having ''imprisoned himself for fear of imprisonment. He will probably wait and see what further evidence emerges in Manning's court martial, but regardless of that, he has only two options: stay put in the embassy indefinitely or accept extradition to Sweden.''

The Australian government has repeatedly denied knowledge of any US intention to charge Assange or seek his extradition. But Australian diplomatic cables released to Fairfax Media under freedom-of-information laws over the past 18 months confirmed the continuation of an ''unprecedented'' US Justice Department espionage investigation targeting Assange and WikiLeaks.

Further cables released under FOI this week show Australian diplomats urgently contacted the Pentagon following Fairfax Media reports in September that WikiLeaks and its supporters had been labelled as ''the enemy'' in a US counter-espionage investigation.

The story Assange will go to Sweden: diplomats first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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