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As WikiLeaks cables continue, Assange closer to arrest

LONDON - The law is closing in on Julian Assange. Swedish authorities won a court ruling yesterday in their bid to arrest the WikiLeaks founder for questioning in a rape case, British intelligence is said to know where in England he's hiding, and U.S. pundits and politicians are demanding he be hunted down or worse.

The former computer hacker who has embarrassed the U.S. government and foreign leaders with his online release of a huge trove of secret American diplomatic cables suffered a legal setback when Sweden's Supreme Court upheld an order to detain him - a move that could lead to his extradition.

Meanwhile, Assange continues to leak sensitive documents. Newly posted cables on WikiLeaks' website detailed embarrassing disclosures, including allegations that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi accepted kickbacks and a deeply unflattering assessment of Turkmenistan's president.

Assange, 39, is accused in Sweden of rape, sexual molestation and coercion in a case from August, and Swedish officials have alerted Interpol and issued a European arrest warrant to bring him in for questioning.

The Australian denies the charges, which his lawyer, Mark Stephens, said apparently stemmed from a "dispute over consensual but unprotected sex." Stephens said the case is turning into a persecution.

In a statement, Assange's lawyer in Sweden, Bjorn Hurtig, suggested that Assange is being retaliated against for the leaks.

In Washington, the top Democrat and Republican at the Senate Intelligence Committee called on Attorney General Eric Holder to prosecute Assange for espionage.

U.S. government lawyers are investigating whether Assange can be prosecuted for spying, a senior American defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said earlier this week. WikiLeaks has not said how it obtained the documents, but the government's prime suspect is an Army private, Bradley Manning, who is in the brig on charges of leaking other classified documents to WikiLeaks.

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