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'Pentagon could be behind rape claims'

world Updated: Aug 22, 2010 16:57 IST

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange said in an interview published Sunday that he believed the Pentagon could be behind a rape accusation against him that was later dropped by Swedish prosecutors.

The Aftonbladet newspaper quoted Assange as saying that he did not know who was "hiding behind" the claims, which came amid a stand-off with Washington over the website's publication of secret Afghan war documents.

But he said that he had been warned previously that groups such as the Pentagon "could use dirty tricks" to destroy the whistleblower site -- adding that he had been particularly warned against sexual scandals.

Swedish prosecutors issued an arrest warrant for Assange on Saturday over an allegation of rape but abruptly cancelled it hours later, saying that he was now "not suspected of rape" and was no longer wanted for questioning.

The prosecution service said Saturday that an investigation into a separate molestation charge remained open. The 39-year-old Australian, the Wikileaks website and his aides have strongly denied all the claims.

But Assange told Aftonbladet that despite the lifting of the warrant, his enemies would still use the claims to damage Wikileaks, which is set to publish thousands more secret papers about the war in Afghanistan in coming weeks.