Washington:The US government has accused WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange of trying to deflect attention from his sexual assault charges after he called on Washington to stop the "witch-hunt" against his organization.

Calling Assange's remarks at the Ecuadorian embassy in London Sunday as "wild assertions", State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that his issue with the British government is whether he will be extradited to Sweden where he was charged with rape and sexual assault."It has to do with charges of sexual misconduct," said Nuland at a briefing.

"So he is clearly trying to deflect attention away from the real issue, which is whether he's going to face justice in Sweden, which is the immediate issue.

Assange, in his first public appearance since being granted asylum by Ecuador, thanked his supporters from a balcony at the Ecuadorian embassy in London and urged the Obama administration to "renounce its witch-hunt against WikiLeaks".

The 41-year-old Australian has embarrassed a number of governments, especially Washington, by releasing millions of US war documents relating to Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as secret diplomatic cables on the internet.

In 2010, Assange was arrested in Britain where he fought a lengthy legal battle against extradition. But he failed this May when the Supreme Court ruled in favour of his extradition to Sweden.

He has taken refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since June 19 for fear that his return to Sweden would lead eventually to his extradition to the US to face prosecution for his releasing of controversial documents.

The Ecuadorian government granted Assange asylum believing his concerns for unfair trials and political persecution were legitimate.


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