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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says he will 'leave Ecuadorian embassy in London soon'

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has said he "will be leaving the embassy soon" during a press conference at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London where he has sought asylum for more than two years.

The 43-year-old Australian said his decision to leave was not for reasons "reported by the Murdoch press" but did not elaborate.

He has been living in the embassy as part of a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden, where there is a warrant against him over alleged sexual offences against two women.

His announcement comes after the Ecuadorian government said it is to try to meet new Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond in a bid to break the deadlock over the future of Julian Assange.

Foreign minister Ricardo Patino said changes to the UK's extradition laws created a better climate for reaching a deal.

He was speaking inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London where Mr Assange has been staying for the past two years.

The WikiLeaks founder brushed off incorrect reports that he was about to give up his fight against extradition to Sweden where he faces sex-related allegations. His supporters made it clear he will remain inside the embassy.

Mr Patino was visiting the embassy to mark the second anniversary of Ecuador granting political asylum to Mr Assange.

The WikiLeaks founder believes he will be extradited to the United States if he travels to Sweden.

Asked about reports that he was planning to give up, Mr Assange said his legal advisers had told him he would be leaving the embassy soon, adding: "But perhaps not for the reasons the Murdoch press and Sky News are saying."

Scores of journalists and photographers waited outside the embassy, but if they expected Mr Assange to walk out, they were disappointed.

He spent 50 minutes sitting next to Mr Patino at a news conference before returning to the room he has been working from for the past two years.

Police officers continued to wait outside the embassy, as they have done for more than two years, in a round the clock operation Mr Assange said had cost £7 million.

He refused to explain his comment about leaving soon, but it was taken as a joke reply to the reports of him leaving.

His advisers made it clear there was no deal in sight which would see the impasse end.

Mr Patino said there had been "two lost years" for everyone involved, including the two Swedish women at the centre of the saga.

"There has not been justice for anyone. The situation must come to an end," he said.

Mr Patino referred to recent changes to the extradition laws in the UK which he believed would mean Mr Assange would not be facing extradition if the case started today.

"Over the coming weeks I will be trying out set up a meeting with the UK foreign secretary. We believe that the recent reforms create a better climate for us to try to reach an agreement."

Mr Assange walked into the Ecuadorean embassy on June 19, 2012, and was granted political asylum two months later on August 16.

He said he had now been detained for four years, having spent time in prison and house arrest before going to the embassy.

He pointed out that the building, close to the Harrods store in Knightsbridge, did not have an outside area, so he was not able to see sunlight.

"It is an environment which any healthy person would find themselves with certain difficulties they would have to manage.

"The United Nations minimum standard for prisoners is one hour a day of outside exercise.

"Even when I was in Wandsworth prison in solitary confinement, that was respected."

Mr Patino said the quality of Mr Assange's life and health was being "seriously affected", adding: "Ecuador is obligated to protect Julian Assange in our embassy until he can fully enjoy his right to asylum."

Mr Assange, sporting a beard and with longer hair than when he first arrived at the embassy, did not go into any detail about his health, preferring to concentrate on the lack of any progress over his case.

He repeated that he had not been charged with any offence and accused the US government of being "intransigent".

Mr Patino said the UK Government only wanted to look at the legal aspect of the case rather than for a political settlement.

"It is time to free Julian Assange and for his human rights to be finally respected," he added.

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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