UK refuses WikiLeaks’ wissle Assange safe passage to Ecuador
By NBC News and wire reports
Updated at 12:55 p.m. ET: LONDON – Britain said it would not allow Julian Assange safe passage to leave the country Thursday, hours after the WikiLeaks founder was granted asylum by Ecuador amid an escalating diplomatic crisis.
U.K. foreign minister William Hague said he was determined to see Assange extradited to Sweden to face sex assault claims but added there were no plans to storm Ecuador’s London embassy, meaning the current standoff could last indefinitely.
“We will not allow Mr. Assange safe passage out of the United Kingdom nor is there any legal basis for us to do so,” Hague said during a press conference. “The United Kingdom does not accept the principle of diplomatic asylum.”
Britain earlier said it might revoke the diplomatic status of the embassy, where the Australian has been holed up since June 19 after he exhausted all appeals after a 17-month legal battle.
Assange, who incensed American government officials by publishing thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic cables and Iraq and Afghan war dispatches in 2010, is wanted for questioning in Sweden over assault and rape claims, which he denies.
Ecuador: UK threatened to break WikiLeaks’ Assange out of embassy
Hague insisted that the U.K.’s actions had anything to do with Assange or WikiLeak’s work.
“It’s important to understand that this is not about Mr. Assange’s activities at WikiLeaks, or the attitude of the United States of America,” he said. “He is wanted in Sweden to answer allegations of serious sexual offenses.”
Ricardo Patino, the Ecuadorean foreign minister, earlier told a news conference in Quito it was upholding international law by granting asylum. He expressed fury at Britain’s earlier threat to arrest Assange, saying it was a direct challenge to the Ecuador’s sovereignty.
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