UK and Ecuador fail to agree on Assange fate

Officials fail to end deadlock over WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange that has lasted 100 days.

    UK and Ecuador fail to agree on Assange fate
    Ecuador has granted Assange political asylum [AP]

    Britain and Ecuador have failed to reach agreement on the fate of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at a meeting of their foreign ministers, officials say.

    "We see no immediate solution," Ecuadoran Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino told reporters after meeting on Thursday with British Foreign Secretary William Hague on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.

    Assange has been sheltered inside the Ecuadoran embassy in London since June 19.

    Though Ecuador has granted Assange asylum, if he steps outside the building he will be arrested to be flown to Sweden, where he is wanted in court over rape and sexual misconduct allegations.

    Assange fears that could lead to extradition to the US, where he could face charges stemming from WikiLeaks' publication of thousands of diplomatic cables that laid bare Washington's powerbroker manoeuvers across the globe.

    Britain says it is legally obliged to extradite Assange to Sweden, and that it will not allow the 41-year-old Australian to leave the embassy and travel to the South American country.

    Written guarantees

    Ecuador, which has granted Assange political asylum, wants Britain to give Assange written guarantees that he would not be extradited from Sweden to any third country.

    They say if extradited to the US, he would face "inhumane" prison conditions and even the death penalty.

    Hague told Patino that British extradition law includes extensive human rights safeguards.

    "The Foreign Secretary described the extensive human rights safeguards in UK extradition law. He requested the Government of Ecuador to study these provisions closely in considering the way ahead," a spokesman for Hague said.

    Amnesty International has called upon Sweden to break the impasse between the two countries by issuing assurances to the UK and Assange that if he goes to Sweden he will not be forcibly transferred to the US.

    Nicola Duckworth, the senior director for research at Amnesty International, said that Assange's return to Sweden would "mean the women who have levelled accusations of sexual assault are not denied justice.

    Likely to meet again

    Patino and Hague are likely to meet again in the next two months to discuss the case.

    "Both ministers agreed that they were committed to the search for a diplomatic solution to Assange's case. They were willing to meet again at this level in due course to continue these exchanges," a British statement said

    Patino stressed that the only possibility of the issue being resolved in a legal manner is if Assange is given safe passage out of the UK.

    "This is so that Assange can fully enjoy the asylum that Ecuador has granted and that gives Mr Assange the right to liberty and the right to not be continued to be persecuted," he said.

    Associated Press news agency reported that Assange appeared pale and sounded hoarse in an appearance via videolink to a meeting on the sidelines of the General Assembly on Wednesday.

    However, British officials said that Patino had insisted there was no immediate concern about Assange's health.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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