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Ecuador and Britain fail to break Assange deadlock

Last Updated: Monday, June 17, 2013 - 19:32

London: Ecuador said on Monday it will continue to grant WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange asylum at its London embassy after talks with Britain failed to achieve a breakthrough on the case.

Ecuador Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said the Australian was prepared to stay at the embassy for another five years if necessary until a diplomatic solution was found, insisting there were no plans to smuggle him out "in the boot of a car".

Patino was speaking after talks with British Foreign Secretary William Hague in London ahead of the anniversary on Wednesday of Assange`s flight to the embassy.

The 41-year-old former computer hacker sought refuge on June 19 last year after a British court ordered his extradition to Sweden, where he is accused of sex crimes.

Hague and Patino "agreed to keep channels of communication open, but made no breakthrough" during the 45-minute meeting, said a statement from the British Foreign Office.

"Ministers agreed that officials should establish a working group to find a diplomatic solution to the issue of Julian Assange, but no substantive progress was made," it said.

"The foreign secretary (Hague) was clear once again that any resolution would need to be within the laws of the United Kingdom."

Britain has refused to grant Assange safe passage out of the embassy, and so he remains stuck in the modest apartment indefinitely.

Patino said Assange was "in good spirits and is ready to spend at least another five years in our embassy", insisting there were no plans to smuggle him out of the building.

"The government of Ecuador believes the reasons for granting him asylum have not changed," he said.

"Mr Assange is not going to escape from our embassy," Patino said. "He is not going to get out through a tunnel or in the boot of a car.

"Ecuador will not act irregularly. He will leave through the main door -- he will go out the front, and to freedom."

Assange denies the allegations of sexual assault made against him, saying they are politically motivated and linked to the release by WikiLeaks of thousands of classified US documents.

He said he fears his extradition to Sweden would pave the way for his transfer to the United States, where he could be prosecuted for the whistle-blowing website`s actions.

US Army Private Bradley Manning, who passed the hundreds of thousands of secret files to WikiLeaks, is currently on trial in the United States on charges that include include "aiding the enemy".

In an interview last week, Assange said the past year had been like living on a space station.

He has not stepped out of the apartment and has only made fleeting appearances in public, using a sun lamp to make up for the lack of natural light, and exercising on a treadmill.

He last appeared in public on Sunday after meeting with Patino, who said his government`s support was not wavering.
Quito "remains firmly committed to protecting his human rights and that we continue to seek cast iron assurances to avoid any onward extradition to a third state", the minister said.
Assange added: "I remain immensely grateful for the support Ricardo, President (Rafael) Correa and the people of Ecuador have shown me over the last year."


First Published: Monday, June 17, 2013 - 19:32

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