|Ecuador grants asylum to Assange|
|Post by JEROME TAYLOR | The Independent|
|Thursday, 16 August 2012 05:12|
And condemns Britain's 'threatening and intimidating' language
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been granted political asylum by Ecuador after taking refuge in the country's embassy in London.
The announcement will increase the already strained relationship between the UK and the South American country, which has been warned that the situation could have "serious implications" for diplomacy.
The news came after Ecuadorian officials at the besieged embassy, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is staying, today expressed their dismay that relations between the two countries had deteriorated to such an extent.
Officials laid the blame for the fallout squarely at the feet of Britain, arguing that the Foreign Office had begun using "threatening and intimidating" language when discussing Mr Assange's fate.
Officials in Quito insist that negotiations were progressing over the past few weeks as Ecuador sought to receive assurances from both Britain and Sweden that Mr Assange would not be extradited to the USA if he was moved to Stockholm.
But on Wednesday they received the first indication that Britain was losing patience with the Latin American nation.
Officials in the Ecuadorian foreign ministry were first informed by telephone and then by letter that London could use powers under a 1987 act to enter the embassy and seize Mr Assange.
"That was the first time we were even told about such legislation," said an embassy official who asked not to identified.
The official said tensions were raised further on Wednesday evening when four police vehicles containing around 50 officers pulled up outside the embassy.
"This is absolutely in breach of the friendly and diplomatic dialogue we were holding and we consider it a threat to our sovereignty," the official said.
Ecuador has said it will respond vigorously to any attempt by the UK police to enter the embassy.
They have been receiving legal advice from a British QC who insists that the 1987 legislation could not be used to enter the Ecuadorian Embassy in Mr Assange's case.
The advisor, who has asked not be named, said he believed the legislation was only applicable in instances where Britain felt the safety of the public or national security was in danger.
He gave the example of when the Libyan embassy was used in the late 1980s to shelter the killer of PC Yvonne Fletcher.
Any attempt to enter the embassy and arrest Mr Assange would be a "highly improper" use of the legislation, the advisor said.