Ecuador rebuts Assange refuge offer

President Correa says offer of residence made to WikiLeaks founder by lower official has not been approved.

    Assange's current whereabouts are unclear [Reuters]

    Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa has dismissed an offer of residency that a lower level official made to the embattled founder of the online whistle-blower WikiLeaks.

    The offer by Deputy Foreign Minister Kintto Lucas on Monday "has not been approved by Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino -- or the president," Correa told reporters.

    Lucas had offered residence in his country to Julian Assange without conditions.

    "We are ready to give him residence in Ecuador, with no problems and no conditions," he told the website Ecuadorinmediato on Monday.

    "We are going to invite him to come to Ecuador so he can freely present the information he possesses and all the documentation, not just over the internet but in a variety of public forums."

    Assange has enraged the US, and many other countries, by releasing masses of classified US documents, including a dump of embarrassing diplomatic cables and documents related to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq earlier this year.

    Assange's whereabouts are unclear, although he spoke to a conference in Jordan via videolink before the latest leaks on Sunday.

    Ecuador's Lucas praised people like Assange "who are constantly investigating and trying to get light out of the dark corners of [state] information".

    He said Ecuador's government was "very concerned" by revelations in the leaked documents that US diplomats have been involved in spying.

    WikiLeaks says it has 1,621 cables that originated from the US embassy in the Ecuadorean capital,
    Quito. Their contents have not yet been disclosed.

    Ecuador's leftist government is one of several in the region that have often been at odds with Washington. It expelled two US diplomats in early 2009, accusing one of directing CIA operations in Ecuador and another of interfering in police affairs.

    The government continues close counternarcotics co-operation with the US, but a year ago Rafael Correa, the president, refused to renew the lease on what had been Washington's only base for counternarcotics flights in South America.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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