UK & World News
WikiLeaks: Assange Dad Assad Visit 'Unapproved'
Wikileaks has said it was unaware of and did not approve a delegation to Syria which met with President Bashar al Assad, and reportedly included Julian Assange's father.
It came after Australia's Wikileaks Party announced it was to to take part in the "solidarity delegation", which it said aimed to show opposition to violence and Western military intervention.
John Shipton, the father of the WikiLeaks founder and chief executive of Australia's WikiLeaks Party, was said to be among those who travelled to the conflict-torn country.
The group met with Mr Assad on December 23, according to a post on the Syrian president's Twitter feed.
The visit has sparked an angry backlash in Australia, with the centre-left Labour opposition branding it "extraordinary" and "irresponsible".
Labour frontbencher Chris Bowen said: "The Assad regime has been widely criticised and correctly criticised around the world.
"For an Australian political party to think it's sensible to go and have discussions and try and provide some legitimacy, is something I think which they have to explain."
The WikiLeaks Party was founded by Mr Assange as part of his failed campaign for election to Australia's parliament this year, but is separate to the controversial leaks website.
WikiLeaks has distanced itself from the delegation. On its official Twitter feed, the group said: "Peace brokering a good idea, but obvious meeting would be spun without care. Did not know or approve."
According to The Australian newspaper, the delegation included Mr Shipton and WikiLeaks national council member Gail Malone, as well as Sydney university academic Tim Anderson and refugee activist Jamal Daoud.
Mr Shipton announced plans to set up a WikiLeaks Party office in Damascus in a show of solidarity with ordinary Syrians, reported The Australian.
It came as it was reported that Scandinavian escort vessels preparing to remove Syria's chemical weapons had been returned to port, after it became apparent an end-of-year deadline would not be met.
The US-Russia deal for Syria to surrender more than 1,000 tons of chemical agents avoided American-led military strikes after a chemical weapons attack on August 21 near Damascus, which the US says killed 1,400 people.
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