Ecuador Calls Regional Summit To Counter British Threats To Embassy Over Assange

   on August 16 2012 8:40 PM
WikiLeaks' Assange
Wikileaks Julian Assange Rejects Police Request to Surrender REUTERS

Ecuador said Thursday night the Union of South American Nations has called an emergency meeting to discuss British threats to seize WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange from inside its embassy in London.

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa granted Assange asylum Thursday morning, two months after he took refuge in the embassy. 

The 12-nation group, known as Unasur, will hold a meeting of foreign ministers Sunday in the Ecuadorian coastal city of Guayaquil, according to a statement published Thursday in the country's presidential gazette, Bloomberg Businessweek reported. Ecuador's Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said Wednesday he also requested an emergency meeting of the Washington-based Organization of American States as well as the Venezuelan-led group of nations known as ALBA.

Ecuador accused the UK Wednesday of threatening to "assault" its embassy in London and arrest Assange, who is seeking sanctuary in the South American nation. On Thursday, Assange was granted asylum over British objections, setting up a confrontation with Britain after it said it would not allow him safe passage out of the country.

"The unauthorized entry of any British authority into the Ecuadorian Embassy compound would be a flagrant violation" of international treaties protecting diplomatic missions, the statement said.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Thursday his government won't storm the embassy and was seeking a "diplomatic solution" to the impasse.

Assange is fighting extradition to Sweden, where he faces questioning on accusations of sexually assaulting two former WikiLeaks volunteers. 

Ecuador's Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino made the asylum announcement on Thursday morning, hailing his country's "tradition" of protecting political prisoners.        

He said Assange's fears of political persecution were he to be extradited to Sweden and possibly the U.S. were "legitimate."

"We trust that our friendship with the United Kingdom will remain intact," he added.

The escalating diplomatic war between the two countries has led to the UK threatening to revoke the London Ecuadorian Embassy's diplomatic staus, effectively granting police the right to storm the building and arrest Assange.

"The UK has a legal obligation to extradite Mr. Assange to Sweden to face questioning over allegations of sexual offences, and we remain determined to fulfil this obligation," a Foreign Office spokesman told Reuters.

"Under British law, we can give them a week's notice before entering the premises, and the embassy will no longer have diplomatic protection," he added.

Although Assange has been granted asylum, if he tries to leave the embassy and fly to Equador, he will be arrested by UK police, effectively trapping him in the London embassy indefinitely. 

Though Sweden has not charged Assange, they are going ahead with the investigation. Assange fears that if he is extradited to Sweden, they will send him to the United States where he will be persecuted for publishing thousands of secret diplomatic cables. 

Unasur's 12 members are Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Surinam, Uruguay and Venezuela.

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