Assange decision won't hurt Britain: Ecuador

AFP , Wednesday 25 Jul 2012

Ecuador is to decide on granting permanent asylum to Julian Assange, who has sought refuge at its embassy since June, amidst growing pressure from the British authorities over his extradition

Ecuador said Wednesday it would reach a decision on whether to grant asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that would not alienate Great Britain, where the leaker is holed up at Quito's embassy.

"We will take decisions that will not affect our relations with Britain," Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said, in remarks reported by ECTV public television.

"They may differ from the position of the British government, but we will be careful to not affect... the Olympic Games."

He said Quito would invite British officials to come to Ecuador to discuss the issue and that Ecuadoran diplomats have been in touch with officials in Sweden. The Olympic games end on 12 August.

Assange, 41, has taken refuge at the Ecuadoran mission in London since 19 June, requesting political asylum to avoid being extradited to Sweden for questioning about allegations of sexual assault and rape.

Quito has said it is reviewing the sexual misconduct allegations as it weighs his asylum request. Assange maintains he had consensual sexual relations with the alleged Swedish victims.

Patino said Assange was doing "well," and noted he celebrated his birthday on 3 July.

President Rafael Correa has said that the mere possibility that Assange could face capital punishment in the United States could be reason enough for his government to grant the activist's asylum petition.

The WikiLeaks website and Assange enraged the United States by publishing a flood of secret documents about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The site's founder fears that if he is sent to Sweden he could subsequently be re-extradited to the United States to stand trial for espionage, on account of the hundreds of thousands of classified diplomatic cables and military logs he helped release.

Correa has often been at odds with Washington and offered Assange asylum in 2010.

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