Assange: Pentagon wants to talk to WikiLeaks

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has claimed the Pentagon is ready to talk about the 15,000 unreleased documents held by the site.

The whistle-blowing site has asked for US military help in reviewing the papers, so that information can be removed than might endanger civilians. A WikiLeaks spokesman in Germany had previously claimed the site was in talks with the Department of Defense - a charge angrily denied by the Pentagon, which has demanded the return of the papers.

"This week we received contact through our lawyers that the General Counsel [of the Pentagon] says now that they want to discuss the issue," Assange told news agency Associated Press.

"It is always positive for parties to talk to each other," Assange said. "We welcome their engagement."

Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman admitted that the Pentagon had arranged a phone call last Sunday with WikiLeaks counsel Timothy Matusheski, but said the lawyer was a "no-show" for the call.

Whitman denied that the Pentagon was willing to cooperate with WikiLeaks, saying:

"We are not interested in negotiating some sort of minimised or sanitised version of classified documents."

"These documents are property of the United States government," Whitman said. "The unauthorised release of them threatens the lives of coalition forces as well as Afghan nationals."

Whitman said that a letter had been sent to Matusheski, repeating the US military's demand that the site return all unpublished material.

Assange said WikiLeaks plans to release its second batch of secret documents on the war in Afghanistan within "two weeks to a month".

At the end of July, the site released 75,000 classified documents to UK newspaper The Guardian, as well as the New York Times, and German broadsheet Der Spiegel.

No information was redacted in the original batch of papers, leading to claims that the whistle-blowing site had endangered civilian lives. Criticism came not only from sources in the US military, but from groups including media watchdog Reporters Without Borders.

UPDATE: Posted on US Department of Defense Twitter account around 16:00 GMT, 19/08/10: