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WikiLeaks: Cables reveal Saudi intrigue and unpaid limo bills

The diplomatic documents published by WikiLeaks on Friday are only the first batch of what the transparency group says will be a much larger release, but they've already provided an unusual level of insight into the day-to-day of Saudi diplomacy, giving a snapshot of the lavish spending habits of senior royals and the political intrigue percolating across the middle east.
By HT Correspondent | AP, Istanbul
UPDATED ON JUN 20, 2015 10:07 PM IST

At the Saudi Embassy in Tehran, diplomats talked about airing the grievances of disenchanted local youths using Facebook and Twitter. At the embassy in Khartoum, they reported anxiously on Iran's military aid to Sudan.

Meanwhile the Saudi mission in Geneva was stuck dealing with a multi-million dollar limo bill racked up by a Saudi princess and her entourage.

The diplomatic documents published by WikiLeaks on Friday are only the first batch of what the transparency group says will be a much larger release, but they've already provided an unusual level of insight into the day-to-day of Saudi diplomacy, giving a snapshot of the lavish spending habits of senior royals and the political intrigue percolating across the middle east.

WikiLeaks has so far published roughly 60,000 documents, of which The Associated Press has only been able to authenticate a handful. But the organisation has a long track record of hosting large leaks of government material and insists the latest batch is genuine.

Saudi officials have not explicitly challenged the authenticity of the documents and Saudi diplomats have not answered repeated requests for comment. However, the foreign ministry posted a carefully worded message on its Twitter account on Sunday morning, warning citizens to avoid visiting "any website with the aim of getting a document or leaked information that could be untrue and aims to harm the nation".

Many of the scores of documents reviewed by AP appear aimed at keeping track of Iranian activity across the region or undermining Tehran's interests.

An undated memo apparently sent from the Saudi Embassy in Tehran made note of what it said was the "frustration of the Iranian citizen and his strong desire for regime change" and suggested ways to publicly expose Iran's social grievances through "the internet, social media like Facebook and Twitter".

It also suggests "hosting opposition figures overseas, coordinating with them and encouraging them to use galleries to show pictures of torture carried by the Iranian regime against people".

Saudis also kept a watchful eye on Iran's friends, real or perceived. One 2012 memo warned that Iran was getting "flirting American messages" suggesting that the US had no objections to a peaceful Iranian nuclear program so long as it had guarantees, "possibly Russian ones".

Another memo, dated to 2012, accuses the United Arab Emirates of helping Russia and Iran circumvent international sanctions. A third memo marked "Top Secret" makes the startling claim that Iranian fighter jets bombed South Sudanese forces during a 2012 standoff over the oil-rich area of Heglig.

There are many such hard-to-confirm stories in the Saudi documents.

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