Assange granted asylum; UK-Ecuador impasse grows

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London, Aug 16: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange on Thursday was granted asylum by Ecuador, leading to an unprecedented diplomatic situation between London and Quito, in whose embassy here he has been holed up to avoid extradition to Sweden to face allegations of sexual offences.

The announcement that Assange has been granted asylum was made by Ecuador foreign minister Ricardo Patino in capital Quito in a televised statement today. He set out the background and grounds on which Ecuador had granted asylum to Assange, and noted the possibility that he could be extradited to the United States from Sweden.

The granting of asylum has led to a situation in which Britain had earlier clarified that it had powers to enter the Ecuador embassy in London and arrest the 41-year-old Australian national who has been holed up there since Jun 19. Britain said it was under a legal obligation to extradite Assange to Sweden. A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "It (the granting of asylum) does not change our position. Our legal position is not changing at all. Our position is that we have a duty to extradite him, even if he is granted political asylum".

A number of Assange's supporters gathered outside the embassy this morning and shouted slogans in support of Ecuador and Assange. Three persons were arrested this morning in a scuffle between the police and Assange's supporters. Earlier, in a statement, WikiLeaks said it condemned "in strongest possible terms the UK's resort to intimidation", and added: "Any transgression against the sanctity of the embassy is a unilateral and shameful act, and a violation of the Vienna Convention, which protects embassies worldwide".

See: No safe passage for Assange, says Britain

PTI

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