WikiLeaks' Assange suggests rape allegations may stem from personal issues, wants new lawyer

STOCKHOLM (AP) — WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Tuesday requested a new lawyer to represent him in the ongoing Swedish rape investigation and suggested the allegations against him could stem from personal conflicts.

In an interview with Swedish TV4, Assange said his previous comments that the rape allegations were part of a smear campaign had been taken out of context.

"I never said the word CIA, I never said anyone was behind this," he said.

"I said very clearly what we knew, which was that on the 11th we received a warning, and that this was a smear because it is not true," Assange said. "That doesn't mean that intelligence agencies are behind this, nor does it mean they are not behind it, nor does it mean once this has happened, for other reasons, that they are not capitalizing on it."

A senior prosecutor last week reopened a rape investigation against the founder of the whistle-blower web site because of allegations from two Swedish women.

Assange has consistently denied the claims and investigators have not released details about either case, though a police report obtained by the AP shows both women had met Assange in connection with a seminar he gave in Stockholm on Aug. 14. The report shows the women filed their complaints together six days later.

"Were they just, in the beginning, a personal vendetta?" Assange asked in the TV4 interview, referring to the complaints.

Earlier Tuesday, a representative of Assange sent a note to the Stockholm district court saying he is not satisfied with prominent Swedish lawyer Leif Silbersky and wants Bjorn Hurtig instead.

The note said Silbersky hasn't been sufficiently engaged in the case.