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Assange seeks a Swiss lifeline

Under siege, WikiLeaks' founder turns to Switzerland for a forum and a source of credit.

GENEVA, Switzerland - WikiLeaks' elusive founder, his options apparently dwindling, has turned to Switzerland's credit, postal and Internet infrastructure to keep his online trove of U.S. State Department cables afloat.

Supporters said Julian Assange was also considering seeking asylum in Switzerland. His British lawyer said that Assange was in Britain.

Assange told the Spanish newspaper El Pais in an online chat that he had received "hundreds of death threats," including some targeting his lawyers and children, as well as pressure from prosecutors in the United States and other countries.

Assange is wanted in Sweden to face allegations of sexual offenses against two women, charges he denies, but the United States has lodged no charges against him. Nor has Britain.

After a number of Web companies dropped WikiLeaks, much of the site's traffic was coming through the Web address Sunday.

The address is controlled by the Swiss Pirate Party, a group formed two years ago to campaign for freedom of information. The site's main server in France went off-line, but it was reachable through a Swedish server.

The site showed that Assange had begun seeking donations to an account under his name through the Swiss postal system in Bern, the Swiss capital, while also using a Swiss-Icelandic credit-card processing center and accounts in Iceland and Germany.

He lost a major source of revenue when the online payment service provider PayPal cut off the WikiLeaks account over the weekend.

Swiss Pirate Party leaders said they had no knowledge of Assange's whereabouts or ability to contact him but had spoken with him weeks ago to help seek asylum in Switzerland. That was during his visit to Geneva last month, when he spoke to reporters at the United Nations.

Assange has been widely criticized and praised.

Supporters view him as a savior of the media and free speech; critics vilify him for recklessly releasing diplomatic secrets, as well as for earlier leaks involving the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell called Assange "a high-tech terrorist." The Kentucky senator told NBC's Meet the Press he hoped Assange would be prosecuted for the "enormous damage" the disclosures have done to the country and to its relationship with its allies.

But even as governments put pressure on Assange, WikiLeaks lived on. The Swiss Pirate Party said Sunday that was receiving about 3,000 visitors a second.

The party also said supporters were creating "mirrors" of the WikiLeaks site on their own servers, meaning that the diplomatic cables will remain available even if WikiLeaks loses its own site.