Ecuador denied a report Tuesday that it had granted amnesty to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and the foreign minister said only he and President Rafael Correa could make the decision.
Assange has been taking refuge in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London since June 19 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning on sex crime allegations.
The former computer hacker, who enraged Washington in 2010 when his WikiLeaks website published thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic cables, says he fears if he goes to Sweden he could be sent to the United States, where he believes his life would be at risk.
Correa has said a decision on Assange's application is likely by the end of this week and that he will meet with Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño Wednesday to discuss the case.
Earlier Tuesday, Britain's Guardian newspaper cited unnamed Ecuadorean government officials as saying asylum will be granted. The report brought a swift response from Correa.
"The story is false ... When we make the decision we'll explain very clearly the reasons, the legal framework, the analysis that we made to grant or not asylum to Mr. Julian Assange," Correa told a press conference in the coastal city of Guayaquil.
Speaking to Reuters on the sidelines of an event in the highland city of Ambato, Patiño also criticized the Guardian's story.
"Anonymous sources are useless. Only the president and myself will make the decision ... there's nothing yet," he said.
Earlier, Patiño told Reuters that Ecuador was pondering not only whether to give Assange asylum, but also how he might avoid arrest in Britain should he try to head to South America.
By diplomatic convention, British police cannot enter the embassy without Ecuador's approval. But the WikiLeaks founder has no way of boarding a flight to the South American country without passing through London and exposing himself to arrest.
"It's not only about whether to grant the asylum, because for Mr. Assange to leave England he should have a safe pass from the British. Will that be possible? That's an issue we have to take into account," said Patiño, who has led Ecuador's analysis of the case.
Assange is in breach of his British bail conditions and the police have said he is liable to arrest if he steps out of the Ecuadorean Embassy, which is miles from any airport.
It appears unlikely that the British government would grant Assange safe passage to an airport as that would mean going against the Swedish arrest warrant and a ruling by Britain's own Supreme Court that the warrant was valid.