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Ecuador denies granting asylum to WikiLeaks founder

Ecuador has denied reports that it has granted amnesty to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. He has taken refuge in Ecuador's London embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden where he faces sex crime charges.

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa wrote on his Twitter account on Tuesday that Ecuador was yet to offer asylum to the WikiLeaks founder.

"The rumor of asylum for Assange is false. No decision has yet been taken," Correa said. He added that he and Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino were awaiting a report on the case from the Ecuadorian foreign ministry. The president has previously said that a decision on the Australian national's application is expected before the end of this week.

Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa

Correa has said he will hold a meeting on the case 'no later than Wednesday'

His statement came shortly after Britain's Guardian newspaper published a report, saying that Ecuador was set to grant the WikiLeaks founder amnesty.

"We see Assange's request as a humanitarian issue," an unnamed official in Quito told the newspaper. "It is clear that when Julian entered the embassy there was already some sort of deal," the official added.

Risking arrest

Assange took refuge at Ecuador's embassy in London on June 19 in a bid to avoid extradition to Sweden where he is wanted for questioning over allegations of sexual assault and rape. The 41-year-old has denied the charges, brought against him by two former WikiLeaks supporters in 2010, saying the sex was consensual.

He also fears extradition 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.

A man walks past Ecuador's embassy in London

Assange has been holed up inside Ecuador's embassy for eight weeks

Should Assange be granted asylum in Ecuador, he still faces arrest in Britain for breaching terms of his bail granted in 2010.

By diplomatic convention British police are unable to enter the London embassy without Ecuador's approval and have therefore been stationed outside the building in anticipation of his exit.

It is unlikely that the British government will grant him safe passage to a London airport. Britain's Foreign Office issued a statement on Tuesday reasserting its determination to extradite Assange to Sweden.

He exhausted all his options under British law against the extradition in June, when the Supreme Court overturned his appeal.

ccp/crh (AFP, Reuters)