Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

Attempt to break Assange deadlock

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange with Ecuador's foreign minister Ricardo Patino inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London (AP)

A group of legal experts is to be set up by the UK and Ecuadorian governments to try to break the deadlock over the future of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

But despite the move being agreed after a meeting between Foreign Secretary William Hague and his Ecuadorian counterpart Ricardo Patino, little progress was made in trying to resolve the diplomatic stand-off.

Mr Assange has been inside Ecuador's London embassy for almost a year, fearing he will be extradited to the United States if he travels to Sweden to answer allegations of sexual assault against two women.

Mr Patino said Mr Assange was prepared to stay inside the embassy for five years, believing it was preferable to facing the US legal system.

Mr Patino told a news conference that the Ecuadorian government was prepared to continue to allow Mr Assange to remain inside the embassy, following the decision last year to grant him political asylum.

He made it clear that Mr Assange would not be smuggled out of the embassy in the boot of a car, saying he should be allowed to leave and go to Ecuador.

There was now a legal dispute between the UK and Ecuador, which Mr Patino said he hoped could be resolved by the working party.

A Foreign Office spokesman said the two ministers agreed to keep channels of communication open, but made no breakthrough, adding: "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.

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

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