Arab rulers secretly lobbied America to launch air strikes to destroy Iran’s nuclear programme according to leaked US diplomatic cables, it was reported.
Details from 250,000 leaked documents obtained by the WikiLeaks whistleblowers website were published by a number of newspapers which had been given advance sight of the material, including The Guardian.
The Guardian said it would be publishing details later in the week of cables relating to the UK – including allegations of “inappropriate behaviour” by a member of the Royal Family which was said to have “startled” US diplomats.
The documents were also said to include “serious political criticism” of David Cameron and “devastating criticism” of British military operations in Afghanistan.
Potentially most seriously of all for the UK, The Guardian said that the cables included requests for “specific intelligence” about British MPs.
Both the British and US governments strongly condemned the leaks while insisting that they would not damage relations between the two countries.
US officials have spent recent days frantically contacting friendly governments – including Britain – to brief them about the likely disclosures in the cables in an attempt to limit the diplomatic fall-out.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said that the disclosure of classified diplomatic communications on the front pages of newspapers around the world would “deeply impact” US foreign interests.
“To be clear – such disclosures put at risk our diplomats, intelligence professionals, and people around the world who come to the United States for assistance in promoting democracy and open government,” he said. “By releasing stolen and classified documents, WikiLeaks has put at risk not only the cause of human rights but also the lives and work of these individuals.”
The Foreign Office said that such leaks were “not in the national interest” and could damage national security. A spokesman added: “We have a very strong relationship with the US Government. That will continue.”