Ecuador says Britain withdraws threat to raid embassy in Assange standoff

  • Reuters, Quito
  • |
  • Updated: Aug 26, 2012 11:37 IST

Britain has withdrawn a threat to enter Ecuador s embassy in London to arrest WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange who has taken refuge there  President Rafael Correa said on Saturday  taking the heat out of the diplomatic standoff.

"We consider this unfortunate incident over  after a grave diplomatic error by the British in which they said they would enter our embassy " Correa said in a weekly media address.

In a statement  Ecuador's government said it had received "a communication from the British Foreign Office which said that there was no threat to enter the embassy."

Ecuador was furious after the British government warned it might try to seize Assange  who has been holed up in the building for more than two months trying to avoid extradition to Sweden  where he is wanted for questioning over rape and sexual assault allegations.Ecuador  which has granted the former computer hacker asylum  demanded that Britain s threat be retracted.

The latest move should improve relations between Quito and London and allow more talks on Assange s fate to take place.For now  however  Assange remains trapped in the embassy with British police waiting outside. Britain has said it is determined to fulfill a legal obligation to send him to Sweden.

The Washington-based Organization of American States had condemned Britain s threat  and South American foreign ministers strongly backed Correa s position that Britain s warning was unacceptable and could set a dangerous precedent.Correa says he shares Assange s fears that if handed over to Sweden  he could then be extradited to the United States to face charges over WikiLeaks  2010 publication of secret U.S. cables.U.S. and European government sources say the United States has issued no criminal charges against the WikiLeaks founder and has launched no attempt to extradite him.Ecuador s government says it never intended to prevent Assange from facing justice in Sweden.

It has said that if he received written guarantees from Britain and Sweden that he would not be extradited to any third country then Assange would hand himself over to the Swedish authorities.

Assange  whose platinum hair and friendships with the rich and famous have helped make him a global celebrity spoke from the embassy's balcony last weekend denouncing what he called a "witch hunt" by the United States against him and WikiLeaks.


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