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Julian Assange: Met Police stop guarding Ecuadorian Embassy, but still want to arrest Wikileaks founder

By Valerie Edwards

London's Met Police stop guarding Ecuadorian Embassy where Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has sought refuge.

Since Assange entered the Ecuadorian Embassy in 2012, the Metropolitan Police Service has maintained a police presence at the Embassy.

The operation to arrest Assange will continue, say the Met, and should he leave the embassy officers will make efforts to arrest him.

For the past three years, the UK has paid for policing around the embassy in Knightsbridge, central London,and the estimated cost of the police presence is more than £12 million.

The Met said that the permanent presence is "no longer proportionate". However, the Met will be deploying "a number of overt and covert tactics to arrest him".

The Met also said that it "has to balance the interests of justice in this case with the ongoing risks to the safety of Londoners and all those we protect, investigating crime and arresting offenders wanted for serious offences, in deciding what a proportionate response is".

A Foreign Office spokesman told BBC News: "The UK has been absolutely clear since June 2012 that we have a legal obligation to extradite Assange to Sweden. That obligation remains today."

Assange, faced rape and sexual assault allegations in Sweden. In June 2012, after losing his appeal to the UK's Supreme Court against extradition to Sweden, he took refuge in the embassy of Ecuador, in London, which granted him asylum.

Last month, prosecutors dropped cases of alleged sexual misconduct against the 44-year-old, but they still want to question him about accusations of rape, made after his visit to the country five years ago.

Assange's main concern is that once extradited to Sweden, he would be in danger of being sent to the US and put on trial for releasing secret US documents.

He continues to deny all allegations, but welcomes being questioned at the embassy.

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