The founder of the WikiLeaks website, Julian Assange, has said he expects to earn more than £1m from book deals.

Assange, who achieved global notoriety after his whistleblower website began releasing more than a quarter of a million diplomatic cables, said he would use the money for legal costs.

The 39-year-old is fighting extradition to Sweden, where two women have accused him of sexual misconduct. He denies the allegations.

Since being released on bail earlier this month pending extradition proceedings, Assange has been living under virtual house arrest at Ellingham Hall, a Norfolk country mansion, from where he regularly gives media interviews.

He told the Sunday Times that he was forced to sign a deal worth more than £1m for his autobiography due to financial difficulties. "I don't want to write this book, but I have to," he said. "I have already spent £200,000 for legal costs and I need to defend myself and to keep WikiLeaks afloat."

He will reportedly receive $800,000 dollars from Alfred A Knopf, his American publisher, while a British deal with Canongate is said to be worth £325,000. An estimated £1.1m will be generated from the deal, including serialisation, he said.

Previously Assange told the Guardian that WikiLeaks does not have enough money to pay its legal bills, even though "a lot of generous lawyers have donated their time to us".

Legal costs for WikiLeaks and his own defence were approaching £500,000, he said. The decisions by Visa, MasterCard and PayPal to stop processing donations have cost the organisation £425,000, enough to fund WikiLeaks' publishing operations for six months. At its peak the organisation was receiving £85,000 a day, he said.

Assange has said that his greatest concern is not the pending extradition request to Sweden, but a potential prosecution in the United States over his released of leaked data.

There is no evidence of an imminent US move to indict him, but there have been calls by senior figures for his arrest. The US vice-president, Joe Biden, has likened Assange to a "hi-tech terrorist".

Assange has said he believes the Obama administration is "trying to strike a plea deal" with Bradley Manning, the 23-year-old intelligence officer and alleged source of the diplomatic cables.

The US attorney general, Eric Holder, wants to indict Assange as a co-conspirator and is also examining "computer hacking statutes and support for terrorism", Assange claims.

Assange's extradition hearing has been scheduled for 6-7 February.

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