Friends and foes of the United States turned on WikiLeaks over its release of secret U.S. diplomatic cables, with some saying the revelations undermined diplomacy, while others dismissed them as worthless.
More than 250,000 cables were obtained by the whistle-blower website and given to the New York Times and other media groups, which published stories on Sunday exposing the inner workings of U.S. diplomacy, including candid and embarrassing assessments of world leaders.
Before Sunday, WikiLeaks had made public nearly 500,000 classified U.S. files on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"Making the world less safe"
The U.S. Justice Department said it was conducting a criminal investigation of the leaks and the White House, State Department and Pentagon all said they were taking steps to prevent such disclosures in future.
"This will weaken diplomacy around the world. It will weaken diplomacy in general, but first and foremost American diplomacy," Sweden's Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said as the mass release of documents continued.
"I see this rather as something that is making the world less safe," he said.
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, mentioned in much of the diplomatic discussion revealed by the WikiLeaks website, dismissed the documents as "worthless mischief."
Afghanistan said its ties with Washington would not be shaken by portrayals of President Hamid Karzai as an "extremely weak" and paranoid leader and his brother as a corrupt drugs baron.
"We don't see anything substantive in the document that will strain the relationship," Karzai's spokesman Waheed Omer told reporters.
In Washington, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs described those behind the leaks as "criminals, first and foremost" who had committed a "serious" offence.
It was an understatement to say Obama was "not pleased", he added.
"Obviously, there is an ongoing criminal investigation about the stealing of and the dissemination of sensitive and classified information," he said.
This will weaken diplomacy around the world. It will weaken diplomacy in general, but first and foremost American diplomacy
Sweden\\\'s Foreign Minister Carl Bildt
US "deeply regretting" the release
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told U.S. allies she "deeply regretted" the release of the cables.
"This disclosure is not just an attack on America's foreign policy interests. It is an attack on the international community," Clinton said following talks with Turkey's foreign minister.
Ahmet Davutoglu -- whose visit coincided with the release of the cables, one of which had Washington wondering if it could count on Turkey to contain Iran -- stressed the "strategic relationship" between their countries.
Close U.S. allies Britain, France and Germany brushed aside disparaging personal remarks about their leaders contained in the cables. One example referred to President Nicolas Sarkozy as "thin-skinned and authoritarian."
France however condemned the leaks as "irresponsible" and "an attack on states' sovereignty."
Britain slammed the release as damaging to national security, but said it would continue to work closely with Washington.
British newspaper The Guardian, one of several media outlets that began publishing the documents, said upcoming memos give "embarrassing" U.S. views of Prime Minister David Cameron and "weak" ex-leader Gordon Brown.
"A few gossipy comments about European politicians are not exactly welcome but they are not really important. But in other cases, people's lives could be put at risk," German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told reporters.
This disclosure is not just an attack on America's foreign policy interests. It is an attack on the international community
U.S. State Secretary Hillary Clinton
Saudi "not aware of their authenticity"
Israel, which has long waged a diplomatic war on Tehran, said the cables vindicated its concerns about a nuclear Iran that were shared across the Arab world.
The documents showed that Saudi Arabia had repeatedly urged a U.S. military strike to thwart Iran's nuclear ambitions.
"The Arab countries are pushing the United States towards military action more forcefully than Israel," said an Israeli official.
But Ahmadinejad told a press conference broadcast live on state television TV that "the documents that they released are a mischief. We do not see any value in them."
In Saudi Arabia, foreign ministry spokesman Osama Nugali told AFP that "these documents do not concern the kingdom... Nor is it aware of their authenticity. Therefore Saudi Arabia cannot comment on them."
Russia also played down being called "a virtual mafia state" where all the decision-making is done by "alpha dog" Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and not President Dmitry Medvedev, described "Robin to Putin's Batman."
"Our own diplomats are sometimes just as open in their own private messages to each other," a Kremlin official told the Kommersant business daily.
The Arab countries are pushing the United States towards military action more forcefully than Israel
An Israeli official
"The least you can do: resign"
But some criticism was directed at the U.S. administration.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez meanwhile called for heads to roll.
"Mrs Clinton should resign," Chavez said in a speech. "It's the least you can do: resign, along with those other delinquents working in the State Department."
Former U.S. president George W. Bush bashed WikiLeaks on Monday in a wide-ranging chat streamed live online at Facebook as part of a promotion tour for his memoir "Decision Points."
"Leaks are very damaging and people who leak ought to be prosecuted," Bush said. "I was frustrated to know that there are people who did not honor their agreement with the government not to talk about secrets."
Leaks that expose behind-the-scenes comments or conversations sabotage trust that is essential for national leaders to work together, he added.
Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate, accused U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday of not having done enough to prevent the leaks, in a message on her Facebook page.
Of WikiLeaks director Julian Assange she said: "He is an anti-American operative with blood on his hands."
Assange plans to release tens of thousands of internal documents from a major U.S. bank early next year, Forbes Magazine reported on Monday. Assange declined to identify the bank in an interview with Forbes.
The White House ordered government agencies to tighten up policies on handling classified information and the State Department said it was reviewing who has access to its networks and databases and would make those standards more stringent.
A directive from the White House Office of Management and Budget released on Monday said the government's new procedures would ensure "that users do not have broader access than is necessary to do their jobs effectively."