Assange can stay till impasse is resolved, says Ecuador

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AssangeLONDON, June 17;Ecuador would let WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange stay at its embassy in London until the impasse over his extradition was resolved — even if it took years — its Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said on Monday after a meeting with his British counterpart William Hague.

Mr. Patino said Mr. Assange, holed up in the Ecuador’s cramped mission since June last year after being granted political asylum, was prepared to stay there for five years. He said he met him and found him in “good spirits” despite the “limitations of his accommodation”.

Mr. Assange sought asylum there to avoid extradition to Sweden to face allegations of sexual assault brought by two women and faces arrest if he comes out of the embassy. He fears that Sweden would hand him over to American authorities who want to prosecute him for leaking classified documents, but Britain says it is bound by international law to extradite him as the British courts have rejected his appeal.

The Foreign Office said that there was no breakthrough after a 45-minute discussion between Mr. Patino and Mr. Hague but the two sides “agreed to keep channels of communication open”.

“Ministers agreed that officials should establish a working group to find a diplomatic solution to the issue of Julian Assange, but no substantive progress was made. The foreign secretary was clear once again that any resolution would need to be within the laws of the United Kingdom,” a spokesman said.

Mr. Patino said his government would continue to press for Mr. Assange to be allowed to go to Ecuador as it believed that the grounds on which he had been granted asylum were still valid.

“The Ecuadorean government will continue to ensure that he continues with the protection we have given him under asylum in our country, protecting his life, his personal integrity, and particularly his freedom of expression. The Ecuadorean government maintains that the reasons for which Ecuador granted asylum are still relevant, and therefore there is going to be no change in his circumstances,” he said.

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