WikiLeaks has finally uncorked its fancied, feared and the much-criticized can of worms, hurting many world leaders, exposing the dark undersides of governments and denting the image of the U.S. state department.

The documents leaked by WikiLeaks late on Sunday showed that the state department ordered a surveillance of the activities of the United Nations personnel including the secretary general and asked its agencies to collect exhaustive information on the U.N staff, including personal details.

In a startling revelation, the leaked diplomatic cables also showed Saudi Arabia asked the U.S. to attack Iran to stop Tehran's nuclear weapons programme. So much for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad's occasional traipse down a red carpet in Riyadh and the more-often-heard brotherly nations' platitude across the Middle East!

The documents, leaked by the whistleblower site to five international media organizations including Britain's Guardian, also showed Russian government and its agencies were in cohorts with mafia bosses for carrying out criminal operations.

The leaks also throw more light into China's hacking of the networks of global technology giants including Google and say a Chinese politburo member personally orchestrated a crackdown on the search firm after finding articles criticizing him on the firm's search service.

According to the leaks, the U.S. diplomatic establishments in foreign countries painted national leaders and heads of state in compromising if not disparaging light, spawning a diplomatic crisis for the U.S. which could last long and change the dynamics in future.

The United States was catapulted into a worldwide diplomatic crisis today, with the leaking to the Guardian and other international media of more than 250,000 classified cables from its embassies, many sent as recently as February this year, wrote the Guardian.

However, the U.S. state department averred that its staff do not engage in espionage and that they are just diplomats. A senior U.S. intelligence official told Reuters: It shouldn't surprise anyone that U.S. officials at the United Nations seek information on how other nations view topics of mutual concern.

No one should think of American diplomats as spies, he added. But our diplomats do, in fact, help add to our country's body of knowledge on a wide range of important issues. That's logical and entirely appropriate, and they do so in strict accord with American law.

The White House released a statement condemned the release. Such disclosures put at risk our diplomats, intelligence professionals, and people around the world who come to the US for assistance in promoting democracy and open government. By releasing stolen and classified documents, WikiLeaks has put at risk not only the cause of human rights but also the lives and work of these individuals.

Apart from the Guardian, WikiLeaks leaked the secrete documents to four other global newspapers, the New York Times, Der Spiegel in Germany, Le Monde in France and El País in Spain. According to the Guardian all these newspapers will  publish extracts from the most significant cables, but have decided neither to dump the entire dataset into the public domain, nor to publish names that would endanger innocent individuals.

It says WikiLeaks has assured that, contrary to the state department's fears, it also initially intends to post only limited cable extracts, and to redact identities.

The Guardian report doesn't provide links to the leaked documents.

In some shocking revelations, the documents show Iran is on a massive global hunt for weapons, trying to ramp up its arsenal by getting guns and ammunitions fro Turkey, missile parts from Germany and guidance systems from China. They also suggest the U.S. is alarmed at Pakistan's nuclear capability which is complicated by endemic political instability in the country.

Several world leaders are shown in unflattering light in the leaked U.S. diplomatic cables. According to the Guardian, one cable describes the relationship between Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in a sarcastic way, saying Medvedev plays Robin to Putin's Batman.

The cables show Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi as a feckless, vain and ineffective as a modern European leader. The documents suggest the U.S. viewed suspiciously the extraordinarily close ties between Putin and Berlusconi.

Libyan leader Gaddafi may have been romantically interested in his Ukrainian nurse who is described as a voluptuous blonde, one of the leaked documents suggested and another says Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh was dismissive, bored and impatient during a meeting with White House counter-terrorism chief John Brennan.

Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe is described by a South African government official as the crazy old man while the U.S. embassy in Paris thought French President Nicolas Sarkozy was thin skinned with an authoritarian personal style. The documents also say Afghan President Hamid Karzai is weak and that his administration is crippled by raging corruption.