LONDON (Reuters) - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said on Monday his website would soon cease to exist unless it was able to end a financial "blockade" by U.S. firms such as Visa and MasterCard.
WikiLeaks, which has released tens of thousands of confidential U.S. government cables, would suspend its publishing operations and concentrate on raising funds, he told a news conference.
Visa and MasterCard stopped processing donations for WikiLeaks in December 2010 after the United States criticized the organization's release of sensitive diplomatic cables.
"If WikiLeaks does not find a way to remove this blockade, given our current levels of expenditure we will simply not be able to continue by the turn of the year," Assange said.
The blocking of donations by Bank of America Corp, Visa Inc, MasterCard Inc, eBay Inc unit PayPal and Western Union Co had destroyed 95 percent of WikiLeaks' revenue, he added.
WikiLeaks would need $3.5 million over the next 12 months to maintain its current levels of operations, he said.
In July, WikiLeaks filed a complaint to the Directorate-General for Competition of the European Commission, saying Visa and MasterCard had breached antitrust provisions set out by the EU Treaty.
Assange said he hoped the European Commission would make a decision to hold a full investigation by mid-November.
(Reporting by Michael Holden)