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INTERNATIONAL > 'Colonial times are over,' Ecuador tells Britain in spat over Assange asylum

QUITO / LONDON

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Britain said today that any decision by Ecuador to give Julian Assange political asylum wouldn't change a thing and that it might still revoke the diplomatic status of Quito's embassy in London to allow the extradition of the WikiLeaks founder.
 
The high-profile Australian former hacker has been holed up inside the red-brick embassy in central London for eight weeks since he lost a legal battle to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over rape allegations.
 
Britain's tough talk on the issue takes what has become an international soap opera to new heights since Assange angered the United States by publishing secret U.S. diplomatic cables on his WikiLeaks website. It may also raise difficult questions for London about the sanctity of embassies' diplomatic status. 
 
The Ecuadorean government, which said it would announce whether it had granted Assange's asylum request on Thursday at 7 a.m. (1200 GMT), has said any attempt by Britain to remove the diplomatic status of its embassy would be a "hostile and intolerable act".
 
"It is too early to say when or if Britain will revoke the Ecuadorean embassy's diplomatic status," a Foreign Office spokesman said. "Giving asylum doesn't fundamentally change anything."
 
"We have a legal duty to extradite Mr. Assange. There is a law that says we have to extradite him to Sweden. We are going to have to fulfill that law."
 
Outside the embassy, British police tussled with protesters chanting slogans in support of Assange and at least three supporters were detained.
 
Quito bristled at Britain's warning.
 
"We want to be very clear, we're not a British colony. The colonial times are over," Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said in an angry statement after a meeting with President Rafael Correa.
 
Britain's threat to withdraw diplomatic status from the Ecuadorean embassy drew criticism from some former diplomats who said it could lead to similar moves against British embassies.
 
"I think the Foreign Office have slightly overreached themselves here," Britain's former ambassador to Moscow, Tony Brenton, told the BBC.
 
"If we live in a world where governments can arbitrarily revoke immunity and go into embassies then the life of our diplomats and their ability to conduct normal business in places like Moscow where I was and North Korea becomes close to impossible."
 
Addressing staff at the Ecuadoran embassy in London where he took refuge two months ago, Assange said: "It is a significant victory for myself, and my people. Things will probably get more stressful now."

Sweden, meanwhile, said it rejected Ecuador's claim that Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder wanted by Stockholm, would not have a fair trial as a reason for granting him political asylum.
 
"Our firm legal and constitutional system guarantees the rights of each and everyone. We firmly reject any accusations to the contrary," Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said on his Twitter account. Assange sought refuge in the Ecuadoran embassy in London on June 19 after a British court ruled he could be extradited to Sweden for for questioning about allegations of rape and sexual assault.

*Compiled from AFP and Reuters by the Daily News staff.

August/16/2012

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Aryeh Rapaport

8/16/2012 8:17:37 PM

First, Assange has a warrant for rape; he needs to confront it eventually. Second, theres a probability if he goes to trial they would extradite him to America in which case he would be jailed or possibly worse. Im against what he did in the sense hes responsible for American death & needs to account for those actions. Never the less its unacceptable US govt lied to its citizens. In that regard there is room for independent, investigative research to admit when there is wrong doing and fix it

Shah Hamdan

8/16/2012 7:53:00 PM

Red Tail, I hope you know the difference of rape and consensual sex. Case against Assange was raised after he published those American files. Assange still ready to face this case if Swedish government guarantees not to extradite him to America. Better make proper research before commenting.It will increase your knowledge and people who read it.

Red Tail

8/16/2012 5:40:10 PM

Shah. So you think it is good and "manly" to rape women? Because that is what he is charged for. And he is charged in a country with excelent reputation for objective trials. I can not understand how you can support the escape from a double rape trial. Would you say the same if it was your mother or sister being raped?

Shah Hamdan

8/16/2012 4:44:43 PM

Well Done. It shows still men live on this earth who are of their own and don't follow the empire orders.
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