Police in London have arrested three protesters demonstrating on behalf of Julian Assange outside the Ecuadorian embassy. Assange is waiting on an asylum decision from Ecuador as the UK plans to extradite him to Sweden.
On Thursday as the arrests were made, a small group of Assange supporters chanted slogans on behalf of the Australian founder of WikiLeaks.
Ecuador is currently considering whether to grant Assange asylum, with a decision due to be announced at 1200 GMT on Thursday. But even if he is given the green light, it is unlikely Assange will be permitted to travel to Ecuador.
British police remain stationed outside the embassy ready to arrest him for breaching the terms of his bail, which was granted in 2010.
At a news conference in the Ecuadorian capital, Quito, on Wednesday, the country's Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino hit back at a letter he said he had received from the UK government, which threatened to raid the embassy if Assange was not handed over.
"The move announced in the official British statement, if it happens, would be interpreted by Ecuador as an unfriendly, hostile and intolerable act, as well as an attack on our sovereignty, which would force us to respond in the strongest diplomatic way," Patino told reporters.
"We want to be very clear, we're not a British colony. The colonial times are over," the foreign minister said.
Assange took refuge at Ecuador's embassy in London on June 19 after losing a legal battle against extradition to Sweden. He is wanted for questioning there over allegations of sexual assault and rape, charges which he denies.
The 41-year-old has also expressed fears that Sweden will eventually extradite him to the United States, where he faces charges over WikiLeaks' publishing of thousands of secret US documents, many of which included information pertaining to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Extradition a 'legal obligation'
In a statement issued as Patino spoke, Britain reasserted its determination to send Assange to Sweden.
"The UK has a legal obligation to extradite Mr. Assange to Sweden to face questioning over allegations of sexual offences and we remain determined to fulfill this obligation," a Foreign Office spokesman said on Wednesday. The statement warned that the UK could revoke the embassy's diplomatic status if necessary.
"Throughout this process we have drawn the Ecuadorians' attention to relevant provisions of our law, whether, for example, the extensive human rights safeguards in our extradition procedures, or to the legal status of diplomatic premises in the UK," the spokesman said.
The law in question, the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987, would allow the UK to revoke the diplomatic immunity of an embassy on UK soil.
Alluding to Ecuador's concerns, however, the spokesman said the UK hoped a "mutually acceptable" solution could still be found.
ccp,mz/jlw (AFP, dpa, Reuters, AP)