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Swedish prosecutors made public accusations of rape and molestation against Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and then quickly dropped them over the weekend.

An arrest warrant was issued, in absentia, on Friday night, then withdrawn on Saturday. Two women aged 20 and 30 made the claims about two separate incidents to Swedish police. The rape accusation has now been dropped but prosecutors are still investigating molestation charges.

A statement on the Swedish prosecutor's website said: "Eva Finne came to the decision that Julian Assange could no longer be suspected of rape. Considering that, Assange is no longer arrested in his absence."

Eva Finne took over the prosecution on Saturday. Finne said there would be a thorough investigation over the coming week and said more information would be released as soon as possible.

A former Swedish prosecutor, Sven-Erik Alhem, demanded answers to why the arrest warrant was made public - the opposite of usual policy because suspects would be alerted and more likely to flee.

Swedish prosecutors said the duty prosecutor had confirmed information when it was put to them by a news service, but had not leaked it themselves. Why they decided to offer such a confirmation, rather than a "no comment", is not clear.

Assange told Al Jazeera TV he had no direct evidence of spook involvement but had been warned 11 August by Australian intelligence services to expect such a slander campaign. He said he learnt of the allegations when he saw them on TV on Saturday morning. Assange is on holiday in northern Sweden.

He said: "the charges are without basis and their issue at this moment is deeply disturbing."

Assange said he had not been contacted by Swedish authorities but his lawyers were trying to arrange a meeting. ®

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