UK

Julian Assange: Ecuador will continue to grant asylum

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Media captionRicardo Patino speaks after talks with his UK counterpart, William Hague

Ecuador's foreign minister has said its embassy in London will continue to provide political asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Ricardo Patino was speaking after talks with his UK counterpart, William Hague.

Mr Assange has been staying inside the embassy for the past year to avoid extradition to Sweden.

The Australian anti-secrecy campaigner is wanted there for questioning over allegations by two women of sexual offences - which he denies.

Mr Assange, who arrived at the Ecuadorean embassy in the Knightsbridge area of London a year ago on 19 June, will be arrested if he leaves the building.

Mr Patino said Mr Assange was prepared to stay inside the embassy for five years.

'Personal integrity'

The Foreign Office said the two ministers talked for 45 minutes and while there had been no breakthrough, they had "agreed to keep channels of communication open".

"Ministers agreed that officials should establish a working group to find a diplomatic solution to the issue of Julian Assange, but no substantive progress was made," it said.

"The foreign secretary was clear once again that any resolution would need to be within the laws of the United Kingdom."

Speaking via a translator, Mr Patino said: "The Ecuadorean government will continue to ensure that he continues with the protection we have given him under asylum in our country, protecting his life, his personal integrity, and particularly his freedom of expression.

"The Ecuadorean government maintains that the reasons for which Ecuador granted asylum are still relevant, and therefore there is going to be no change in his circumstances."

The UK government has previously said that it has a legal obligation to extradite Mr Assange to Sweden.

Mr Patino said Britain and Ecuador were using different legal justifications to support their positions.

He said he had given a document to the British government setting out the basis on which Mr Assange should be allowed safe conduct to Ecuador.

Mr Patino met Mr Assange on Sunday and said he was "in good spirits" despite the "limitations of his accommodations".

The WikiLeaks founder sought asylum at the Ecuadorean embassy after the UK Supreme Court refused to reopen his appeal against extradition.

He fears that if he is sent to Sweden, he may be extradited to the US, where he could face the death penalty for disclosing confidential government information.

The British government has spent about £3m on police officers to guard the embassy around the clock.

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