British police guard Ecuador embassy
Julian Assange remained holed up in Ecuador's London embassy
yesterday with police guarding its exits, as Britain warned that the
diplomatic row over the WikiLeaks founder could go on for years.
Ecuador granted asylum on Thursday to Assange -- whose website
enraged the United States by publishing a vast cache of confidential
government files -- but Britain has vowed not to grant him safe passage
out of the country.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said his government was
obliged under its own law to extradite the Australian national to
Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over alleged sex crimes.
"No-one, least of all the government of Ecuador, should be in any
doubt that we are determined to carry out our legal obligation to see Mr
Assange extradited to Sweden," Hague told a press conference on
He admitted that the stalemate could continue for months or even
Around ten British police were stationed outside the embassy early
Friday, ready to arrest 41-year-old Assange if he leaves the building.
WikiLeaks condemned the continued police presence as "intimidation
A handful of Assange's supporters camped overnight outside the
embassy in London's plush Knightsbridge district, sleeping on pieces of
Assange has not left the embassy since June 19, when he walked in and
claimed asylum. WikiLeaks said on Twitter that he would give a statement
in front of the embassy on Sunday, though it did not specify whether
this would involve leaving the building and, if so, how he would do this
without being arrested.
Under normal diplomatic procedures, embassies are considered the
territory of the countries they represent and cannot be entered without
But Britain angered Ecuador on Thursday by suggesting it could invoke
a domestic law allowing it to breach the usual rules and go in to arrest
WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson on Thursday warned Britain
against any attempt to enter the building, saying this would "risk
upsetting diplomatic relations all over the world".
"Hopefully, we will see the decision resolved in a civilised manner,"
he told AFP.
Entering the embassy without Ecuador's permission would challenge a
fundamental principle of diplomacy, and the threat has left Britain in
unchartered legal waters.
But Britain's representative in Ecuador, Philip Barton, said London
was "committed to finding a mutually acceptable solution to this
A spokeswoman for Britain's Foreign Office declined to say whether
meetings would be held with Ecuadorean officials on Friday to attempt to
end the impasse.
The Organization of American States, which has held an emergency
session, said it would decide Friday whether to call a meeting of its
foreign ministers. Britain has observer status in the OAS.
Ecuador has called a meeting of foreign ministers from the South
American regional bloc UNASUR on Sunday.
"Nobody is going to scare us," Ecuador's President Rafael Correa said
on his Twitter account, minutes before the decision was announced.
Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said his government
reached its decision after Britain, Sweden and the United States refused
to provide guarantees that Assange would not be passed on from Sweden to
In 2010, WikiLeaks obtained and published online an enormous cache of
US military documents on the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and diplomatic
cables that deeply embarrassed the US.
Supporters fear Assange could face the death penalty if sent to
Washington, pointing to its harsh treatment of Bradley Manning, the
soldier on trial for allegedly leaking hundreds of thousands of military
files to WikiLeaks.
Washington has denied that it is lobbying Britain or Sweden to take
Assange into custody.
"With regard to the charge that the US was intent on persecuting him,
I reject that completely," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland
"It is an issue among the countries involved and we are not planning
to interject ourselves." Assange, meanwhile, thanked Ecuador on Thursday
for its "courageous" decision.
"While today is a historic victory, our struggles have just begun.
The unprecedented US investigation against WikiLeaks must be stopped,"