LONDON – Britain is seeking an amicable solution with Ecuador to their diplomatic standoff over WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, a U.K. official insisted Saturday, as the secret-spiller prepared to make his first public statement since the Latin American nation confirmed it would offer him asylum.
Assange, who took shelter in the Ecuadorian Embassy on June 19 after he exhausted all routes of appeal in the U.K. to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning over sexual misconduct allegations, is scheduled to make a public statement today.
London diplomats have spoken with Ecuadorian Ambassador Ana Alban since the South American country granted Assange asylum on Thursday, a move which threatens to further complicate Sweden’s two-year long attempt to have the activist extradited from Britain.
British officials in Ecuador’s capital, Quito, have also contacted the country’s foreign ministry to discuss a resumption of talks over the case, and to quell anger prompted when Britain appeared to suggest it could invoke a little-known law to strip Ecuador’s embassy of diplomatic privileges – meaning police would be free to move in and detain Assange.
But there was little sign of a friendlier atmosphere Saturday from Quito, however, where Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa said on his weekly broadcast that Britain’s “direct threat” about possibly entering the embassy had come “in a totally offensive, inconsiderate, intolerable manner.”
British diplomats have repeated assurances that the government was simply setting out the country’s legal options, not making a specific threat to storm the nation’s mission.
Assange, an Australian, shot to international prominence in 2010 when his WikiLeaks website began publishing a huge trove of American diplomatic and military secrets – including 250,000 U.S. embassy cables that highlight the sensitive, candid and often embarrassing backroom dealings of U.S. diplomats.
As he toured the globe to highlight the disclosures, two women accused him of sex offenses during a trip to Sweden.
Assange and his supporters claim the Swedish case is merely the opening gambit in a Washington-orchestrated plot to make him stand trial in the U.S. over his work with WikiLeaks – something disputed by both Swedish authorities and the women involved.