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Assange: Ecuador allies tell Britain to back off

Posted by seumasach on August 19, 2012

New Zealand Herald

19th,August, 2012

Ecuador has received powerful backing from regional allies as they warned Britain of “grave consequences” if it breaches diplomatic security at the London embassy where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is holed up.

The warning on Saturday (local time) capped two days of a tense diplomatic stand-off between Britain and the South American nation, which on Thursday granted asylum to Assange, whose website enraged the US 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 (Alba), whose foreign ministers flew to the Ecuadoran economic capital and displayed full diplomatic support.

“We warn the government of the United Kingdom that it will face grave consequences around the world if it directly breaches the territorial integrity of the Embassy of the Republic of Ecuador in London,” said a statement issued at the end of the ALBA meeting.

The statement, read by Ecuadoran Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro, also rejected Britain’s “threats vis-a-vis our territorial integrity and sovereignty”.

The regional group – which includes Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua and several smaller Caribbean nations – expressed its “categorical support for Ecuador’s sovereign right” to grant asylum to Assange and urged other nations to reject “Britain’s attempts to impose its will by force”.

ALBA nations also called on the United Nations to discuss the issue of inviolability of diplomatic installations around the world.

Britain has angered Ecuador by suggesting 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 Assange.

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

Assange, 41, is set to face the world’s media on Sunday (1am Monday NZT) from the safe haven of the London embassy but risks arrest if he takes even one step out of the building.

With police officers primed to detain him, 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 Assange’s planned appearance at 1am (NZT), with spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson saying what little he knew could not be discussed for “security reasons”.

But Britain’s Foreign Office warned that the steps to the embassy were considered British territory while police said officers would take “appropriate action” if Assange strayed from the building.

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