London - Arabstoday
Ecuador has taken the decision to grant political asylum to Julian Assange, in fear that he will be extradited to the United States if he returned to Sweden.
Ecuador's Foreign Affairs Minister Ricardo Patiño said in a conference on Thursday: "We can state that there is a risk that he will be persecuted politically...
We trust the UK will offer the necessary guarantees so that both governments can act adequately and properly respect international rights and the right of asylum.
We also trust the excellent relationship the two countries have will continue.
"This is a sovereign decision protected by international law. It makes no sense to surmise that this implies a breaking of relations (with Britain)."
A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We are disappointed by the statement from Ecuador’s Foreign Minister that Ecuador has offered political asylum to Julian Assange.
Under our law, with Mr Assange having exhausted all options of appeal, the British authorities are under a binding obligation to extradite him to Sweden. We shall carry out that obligation. The Ecuadorian Government's decision this afternoon does not change that.
We remain committed to a negotiated solution that allows us to carry out our obligations under the Extradition Act.
Earlier on Thursday Britain has threatened to arrest Julian Assange inside Equador’s embassy, the Foreign Office revealed today.
A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “Our position is that we have a duty to extradite him, even if he is granted political asylum.”
Ecuador claims that Britain would be breaching their embassy’s diplomatic immunity if they arrested the Wikileaks founder.
A crowd has gathered in front of Ecuador embassy in Knightsbridge, ahead of Quito’s decision which should be revealed later Thursday.
The Australian national applied for political asylum in June when he lost his appeal against extradition in a UK court. He was then given two weeks by the government after which he would have had to go back to Sweden. He sought refuge in the embassy in order to escape extradition. He is facing rape and assaults accusations in Sweden.
Protesters have also gathered in front of the British embassy in Quito, Ecuador.
On Wednesday, Ecuador’s foreign minister revealed in a press conference that Britain had expressed their threats through an official letter. He said:
“Today we received from the United Kingdom an express threat, in writing, that they might storm our embassy in London if we don't hand over Julian Assange.
“If the measure announced in the British official communication is enacted, it will be interpreted by Ecuador as an unacceptable, unfriendly and hostile act and as an attempt against our sovereignty. It would force us to respond.
"We are not a British colony."
To which a British Foreign Office spokesman responded: “Throughout this process we have drawn the Ecuadoreans' attention to relevant provisions of our law, whether, for example, the extensive human rights safeguards in our extradition procedures, or to the legal status of diplomatic premises in the UK," the spokesman said.
"We are still committed to reaching a mutually acceptable solution.”
In 2010, Julian Assange was accused of sexually assaulting two ex Wikileaks volunteers in Stockholm. Mr Assange claims these accusations are politically motivated.