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Cable Gate Day Three

The head of the Bank of England, Mervyn King, privately criticised David Cameron and George Osborne (now the prime minister and chancellor) before the election for their lack of experience, the lack of depth in their inner circle and their tendency to think about issues only in terms of their electoral impact. Osborne lacked gravitas and was seen as a political lightweight because of his “high-pitched vocal delivery” according to private Conservative polling before the election.

• US and British diplomats fear that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme could lead to terrorists obtaining fissile material, or a devastating nuclear exchange with India. Also, small teams of US special forces have been operating secretly inside Pakistan’s tribal areas, with Pakistani government approval. And the US concluded that Pakistani troops were responsible for a spate of extra-judicial killings in the Swat Valley and tribal belt, but decided not to comment publicly.

• Gordon Brown unsuccessfully lobbied the US for the British computer hacker Gary McKinnon to be allowed to serve any jail sentence in the UK. David Cameron said British people generally believe McKinnon is guilty “but they are sympathetic”.

• The US ambassador to Pakistan said the Pakistani army is covertly sponsoring four major militant groups, including the Afghan Taliban and the Mumbai attackers, Laskar-e-Taiba (LeT), and “no amount of money” will change the policy. Also, US diplomats discovered hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Pakistan earmarked for fighting Islamist militants was not used for that purpose.

• Pakistan’s army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, considered pushing President Asif Ali Zardari from office and forcing him into exile to resolve a political dispute, the US embassy cables reveal. Separately, Zardari once told the US vice-president, Joe Biden, he feared the military “might take me out”. He told the Americans his sister would lead if he was assassinated. Another cable revealed that the Pakistani president was described as a “numbskull” by Sir Jock Stirrup, Britain’s then chief of defence staff.

• The US praised former British Guantánamo detainee Moazzam Begg for his campaign to persuade European countries to take in remaining detainees from the prison camp.

• Senior Lib Dem officials, who now work in No 10 and the Cabinet Office, planned a campaign to depict David Cameron as “fake” and “out of touch” during the election campaign, but abandoned the strategy because it was deemed too aggressive after the death of his son, Ivan.

• The Tories told the US before the general election that a Conservative government could be tougher on Pakistan as it was less reliant on votes from people with a Pakistani connections than Labour. Referring to Muslim extremists coming to Britain from Pakistan, Cameron said that under Labour “we let in a lot of crazies and did not wake up early enough”.

• Zardari claimed that the brother of Pakistan’s opposition leader, Nawaz Sharif, “tipped off” LeT about impending UN sanctions after the 2008 Mumbai attacks, allowing the group to empty its bank accounts. British diplomats feared India would respond with force to the attacks but the US thought the UK was “over-reacting”.

• The French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, is portrayed as a self-absorbed, thin-skinned, erratic character who tyrannises his ministers and staff but is also a brilliant political tactician, in US memos. The Saudis were irritated by Sarkozy planning to take Carla Bruni on a state visit to their country before she was married. Sarkozy invited Gordon Brown and the Canadian prime minister, Stephen Harper, to last year’s D-day commemorations because “the survival of their governments was at stake”.

• The British government promised to protect US interests during the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war.

• The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, has been sheltering the leader of the nationalist insurgency in Pakistan’s Balochistan province for years.

Le Monde

• Le Monde focuses on what the cables say about Sarkozy, notably his pro-Americanism, his idea that an international force could replace the US in Iraq, and the US view on his election that he was “a novice” in international affairs with a poor grasp of English.

Der Spiegel

• The paper has significant coverage of Pakistan, with a story that the Pakistani military and secret service are heavily involved in the country’s politics and often work against US interests.

• A subsidiary of the US private security firm Xe (then known as Blackwater) flouted German arms export law. It transported German helicopters to Afghanistan via Britain and Turkey without a permit because it was taking too long to get the German export papers.


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