Julian Assange row: Embassy entry 'would be suicide for UK'

  • Published
Media caption,

Ecuadorian president says embassy entry 'would be suicide' for UK

The UK would be committing diplomatic suicide if it tried to enter his country's embassy in London, Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa has said.

The president said such a move would open up the UK to having its diplomatic missions around the world entered.

Mr Correa was speaking to state television about the continuing dispute over Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

Mr Assange has been in the embassy since June and been granted asylum by Ecuador as he fights extradition.

The UK says it is obliged to extradite Mr Assange to Sweden, where he faces questioning over sex assault claims, which he denies, and he will be arrested if he leaves the embassy.

Mr Assange entered the embassy in June while on bail before extradition proceedings against him started.

'Danger exists'

The interview with Mr Correa opened with a short report from inside the Ecuadorean embassy in London.

It showed Mr Assange hugging his lawyer, the former Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon, just minutes before he addressed crowds of his supporters from the embassy's balcony on Sunday.

Mr Correa was then asked if he thought there was now no possibility the UK authorities would enter the embassy premises to arrest Mr Assange, as they had previously indicated they might in a letter to Ecuadorean officials.

Image source, AFP
Image caption,
Julian Assange claims he is a victim of the US's "war on whistle-blowers"

Mr Correa said: "While the United Kingdom hasn't retracted nor apologised, the danger still exists."

He said such a course of action would be "suicide for Great Britain because then people could enter their diplomatic premises all around the world and they wouldn't be able to say a thing".

There was very little said on what the next diplomatic step might be regarding removing Mr Assange from the embassy.

But Mr Correa said, if needed, he was prepared to take the issue to the United Nations.

He also said Ecuador was hoping for strong support from a meeting of the Organization of American States on Friday.

"Remember that David beat Goliath. And with many Davids it's easier to bring down a number of Goliaths," he said.

"So we're hoping for clear and coherent backing because this violates all inter-American law, all international law, the Vienna Convention and all diplomatic traditions of the last, at least, 300 years on a global scale."

Returning to the question of Mr Assange, Mr Correa said: "The British say they have no choice but to extradite him but why didn't they extradite Augusto Pinochet?"

Balcony address

BBC correspondent Will Grant, in Ecuador, says that while Mr Correa may not have thrown any fresh light on where the stalemate goes next, he did reiterate that the channels of negotiation with the UK were still open.

The UK has insisted it will not grant Mr Assange "safe passage" to Ecuador as it seeks a diplomatic solution to him being given asylum.

The Supreme Court in May dismissed Mr Assange's bid to reopen his appeal against extradition and gave him a two-week grace period before extradition proceedings could start.

On Sunday, Mr Assange, 41, used his first public statement since entering the embassy to claim asylum - delivered from a balcony - to call on the US to stop its "war on whistle-blowers".

The US is carrying out an investigation into Wikileaks, which has published a mass of leaked diplomatic cables, embarrassing several governments and international businesses.

In 2010, two female Wikileaks supporters accused Mr Assange, an Australian citizen, of committing sexual offences against them while he was in Stockholm to give a lecture.

He claims the sex was consensual and the allegations are politically motivated and fears extradition to the US if extradited to Sweden.

Related Internet Links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites.