- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 1, 2010

ASTANA, Kazakhstan (AP) — The leak of thousands of sensitive U.S. embassy cables will not hurt American diplomacy, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton declared Wednesday at a security summit.

Mrs. Clinton said she has discussed the revelations published on the WikiLeaks website with her colleagues at the summit in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan. The event is the first major international meeting of leaders and top diplomats since the memos began appearing on the website and in international publications this week.

The secret memos published by WikiLeaks contain frank details on several leaders attending the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe meeting. One note allegedly written by a U.S. diplomat in Kazakhstan details scenes of hard-drinking hedonism by several senior Kazakh ministers. The same report describes Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev as horse-obsessed and given to taking refuge from the often-frigid capital at a holiday home in the United Arab Emirates.

Other prospective conference delegates described less than flatteringly in the leaked cables include Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

“I have certainly raised the issue of the leaks in order to assure our colleagues that it will not in any way interfere with American diplomacy or our commitment to continuing important work that is ongoing,” Mrs. Clinton said. “I have not any had any concerns expressed about whether any nation will not continue to work with and discuss matters of importance to us both going forward.”

Several officials at the summit echoed her comments.

British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who met Wednesday with Mrs. Clinton, released a statement saying the “recent WikiLeaks disclosures would not affect our uniquely strong relationship.”

Kazakh Foreign Minister Kanat Saudabayev said, “This will have no bearing on our strategic relationship.”

The Obama administration has harshly criticized the leaking of the cables, saying the details in them could put lives at risk.

“I anticipate that there will be a lot of questions that people have every right and reason to ask, and we stand ready to discuss them at any time with our counterparts around the world,” Mrs. Clinton added.

On the sidelines of the summit, Mrs. Clinton and her Belarussian counterpart, Sergei Martynov, announced that the former Soviet republic of Belarus will give up its stockpile of material used to make nuclear weapons by 2012.

That’s a significant step forward in efforts aimed at reducing the risk of nuclear materials falling into the hands of terrorists and follows similar commitments made by other former Soviet republics, including Kazakhstan. Washington will provide technical and financial help to enable Belarus to dispose of its highly enriched uranium stocks.

Mrs. Clinton said the Obama administration is encouraged that Iran has agreed to return to Geneva for a new round of international talks on its disputed nuclear program. However, a uranium-exchange agreement that was announced following talks with Iran in October 2009 — but that later unraveled — would have to be modified to take into account the fact that Iran since has produced more enriched uranium, she said.

The OSCE was born in the 1970s to nurture rapprochement between Cold War enemies. But the organization has in recent years struggled to define a clear purpose — an anxiety reflected in the speeches of many leaders at the Astana summit. Failure to achieve any breakthrough in Europe’s various territorial stalemates, from Moldova’s separatist Trans-Dniester region to the perennial tension between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the contested Nagorno-Karabakh region, has served as an embarrassing reminder of the OSCE’s weakness to effect significant change.

In a thinly veiled broadside at Russia, Mrs. Clinton chided efforts to obstruct the placement of an OSCE mission in Georgia, whose own territorial integrity has been undermined by Moscow’s diplomatic and financial support for the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

“It is regrettable that a participating state has proposed to host a mission and the OSCE has not been allowed to respond,” Mrs. Clinton said.

Russia fought a brief but intense war with Georgia over South Ossetia in 2008.

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