Ecuador open to dialogue with Britain over Assange spat
Ecuador is open to dialogue with Britain over WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, its president said, despite what he called London's threat to enter its embassy by force to arrest him, DPA reported.
"Despite this impertinence, this vulgar and unacceptable threat, we remain open to dialogue," President Rafael Correa said late Tuesday in Ecuador's largest city, Guayaquil.
Tensions flared last week when Correa accused Britain of colonialism for threatening to enter Ecuador's embassy in London to arrest Assange and extradite him to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning in connection with alleged sexual assaults.
Britain said it merely reminded Ecuador of the legal status of diplomatic premises on its territory.
Assange, 41, has been holed up in the embassy since June. Ecuador on Thursday granted him asylum, but Britain said it would detain and extradite him if he leaves the embassy grounds.
Quito said the asylum was in recognition of Assange's stated concern that he could be extradited from Sweden to the United States to stand trial for the leaking of confidential documents by his whistleblowing website and possibly face the death penalty.
Correa said Tuesday that it was not his intention to shield Assange from Swedish justice. Ecuador would allow a Swedish prosecutor to question him in the embassy, he said.
Ecuador was in discussions with Britain and Sweden to explore whether "they can guarantee [he] won't be extradited to a third country if he goes to Sweden," the president said, noting that Assange has not been formally charged.
"There has never been such a guarantee," he said.
Under the terms of his asylum, Assange was under the protection of Ecuador and could potentially remain in the embassy indefinitely, Correa said.
Vice President Lenin Moreno was to visit Australian-born Assange Tuesday, the television broadcaster Ecuavisa reported.