20 Aug 2012

Ecuador allies warn UK over Assange

5:58 am on 20 August 2012

Ecuador has received backing from regional allies and has warned Britain of grave consequences if it breaches diplomatic security at the London embassy where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has taken refuge.

The warning capped two days of a tense diplomatic stand-off between Britain and the South American nation, which last week granted asylum to Mr Assange, whose website enraged the United States by publishing a vast cache of confidential government files.

Britain has responded by vowing not to grant him safe passage out of the country.

But Ecuador called on its allies from the Venezuela-led so-called Bolivarian Alliance for the People of Our America, whose foreign ministers gathered and displayed full diplomatic support.

The regional group - which includes Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua and several smaller Caribbean nations - also called on the United Nations to discuss the issue of inviolability of diplomatic installations around the world.

Britain has suggested it could invoke the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act of 1987, which it says allows it to revoke the diplomatic immunity of an embassy on British soil and go in to arrest Mr Assange.

He took refuge in the embassy on 19 June to evade extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over alleged sexual misconduct.

Mr Assange is set to face the world's media from the London Embassy but risks arrest if he takes even one step out of the building.

With police officers primed to detain him, Mr Assange must find a way of speaking publicly without setting foot outside, raising the possibility of him being forced to speak from a balcony or lean out of a window.

WikiLeaks was tight-lipped about the logistics of the planned media appearance, with a spokesman saying it could not be discussed for "security" reasons.