Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Assange: Nations condemn UK threat

Julian Assange makes an address from inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London

Foreign ministers of South America's 12-nation union have condemned Britain's threat to forcibly enter the Ecuadorian embassy in London and arrest WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

A brief statement by the ministers did not, however, endorse Ecuador's decision to grant asylum to Mr Assange, who is wanted by Sweden for questioning about allegations of sexual misconduct.

The ministers of the UNASUR group issued the statement after they met in Guayaquil, Ecuador, at the host nation's request. The group's general secretary, Ali Rodriguez of Venezuela, said the meeting lasted 20 minutes.

The ministers "condemned the threat of the use of force between states" and reiterated "the right of states to concede asylum," the statement said. They also urged the parties to follow the "path of dialogue and direct negotiations" to reach a mutually acceptable solution to the impasse.

Mr Assange has taken refuge in Ecuador's embassy for two months and Britain is refusing him safe passage out of the country.

The British threat came in a diplomatic letter delivered to Ecuador on Wednesday, a day before it granted Mr Assange asylum. Britain later said it had no intention of storming the embassy, which would breach the 1961 Vienna Convention that declares foreign embassies inviolate.

UNASUR's gathering came a day after the regional ALBA group of leftist governments also held a meeting in Guayaquil, at which Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Argentina endorsed Ecuador's asylum decision about Mr Assange.

Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Chile are among Latin American nations that have not taken a stand.

Ecuador says it granted asylum because neither Britain nor Sweden would offer guarantees that they would not allow Mr Assange's extradition to the United States. Supporters of Mr Assange say they fear he has been secretly indicted by a grand jury in the US.

Ecuador's president Rafael Correa says there is sufficient reason to fear the Australian ex-hacker who published the largest trove of US secrets ever in 2010 would be denied due process in the United States and could face life in prison or even the death penalty. "If we compare the arguments of the two countries, right is on our side," foreign minister Ricardo Patino said of his nation and Britain.

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