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EUROPE > UK under pressure over Assange case

QUITO, Ecuador - The Associated Press

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Foreign minister of the countries members of Union of South American Nations (UNASUR)
hold hands as they pose for a picture after meeting over Assange issue. AFP photo

Foreign minister of the countries members of Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) hold hands as they pose for a picture after meeting over Assange issue. AFP photo

Foreign ministers of South America’s 12-nation union condemned Britain’s threat last week to forcibly enter the Ecuadorean embassy in London and arrest WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

A brief statement by the ministers on Aug. 19 did not, however, endorse Ecuador’s decision to grant asylum to Assange, who is wanted by Sweden for questioning about allegations of sexual misconduct. The ministers of the UNASUR group issued the statement after they met in Guayaquil, Ecuador, at the host nation’s request.

Path of dialogue

The ministers “condemned the threat of the use of force between states” and reiterated “the right of states to concede asylum,” the statement said. They also urged the parties to follow the “path of dialogue and direct negotiations” to reach a mutually acceptable solution to the impasse.

Assange has been holed up in Ecuador’s embassy for two months and Britain is refusing him safe passage out of the country. The British threat came in a diplomatic letter delivered to Ecuador on Aug.
 
15, a day before it granted Assange asylum. Britain later said it had no intention of storming the embassy, which would breach the 1961 Vienna Convention that declares foreign embassies inviolate.

Assange on Aug. 19 called for U.S. soldier Bradley Manning, the alleged source of the trove of secret government documents leaked by WikiLeaks, to be released from a military prison, claiming he had undergone harsh treatment in detention. Addressing around 200 of his supporters who came to hear the speech in an upmarket district of London, Assange criticized the suggestion that Britain could revoke the embassy’s diplomatic status and enter the building.

“If the UK did not throw away the Vienna Conventions the other night, that is because the world was watching,” he claimed.

August/21/2012

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