Ecuador's London envoy flies home for Assange talks
LONDON - Agence France-Presse
REUTERS photoEcuador's ambassador to Britain has returned to Quito for talks with the president over the request by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for asylum in the South American country, the embassy said Saturday.
Assange has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since Tuesday when he asked Quito for political asylum in a last-ditch effort to avoid extradition to Sweden where he is wanted for alleged sex crimes.
Ecuador's President Rafael Correa has said he is considering the request, but stressed that the decision would not be rushed.
The embassy confirmed late Saturday that ambassador Anna Alban left London for Ecuador Saturday morning after being recalled by the president.
"While in Ecuador she will be holding a series of meetings with officials at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs before meeting President Correa to personally brief him on Mr Assange's application for political asylum," the embassy said in a statement.
She will also brief Correa on her recent meeting with British government officials, it said.
An embassy spokesman said: "Ecuador presently finds itself in a unique situation and it is important that those responsible for making the final decision on Mr Assange's application are fully briefed on all aspects of the present situation." Alban described talks with British authorities Wednesday as "cordial and constructive".
She said Assange's application would be assessed by the foreign office in Quito, taking into account Ecuador's "tradition in supporting human rights".
President Correa announced Friday he was recalling the ambassador for discussions over what he called "a very serious matter".
"We are going to proceed cautiously, responsibly and seriously in this case, without bowing to absolutely any pressure," he said.
Assange, who is wanted by Sweden to face allegations of rape and sexual assault against two women, will remain in the embassy building until a decision is reached.
The Australian national fears Stockholm will turn him over to the United States, which he says wants to try him for leaking US secrets.
His whistleblowing website WikiLeaks enraged Washington by releasing a flood of classified US information about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as more than 250,000 classified US diplomatic cables.
There is however no current US indictment against him.
The former computer hacker exhausted his options under British law after Britain's Supreme Court threw out his application to reopen his appeal against extradition to Sweden after a lengthy legal battle.
He has until June 28 to lodge an appeal at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, after which the extradition process can begin.