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Assange row deepens

August 18, 2012

Ecuador has called an emergency meeting of the Organization of American States to discuss a diplomatic standoff with Britain over the case of Julian Assange. Ecuador granted Assange asylum on Thursday, fuelling tensions.

A protestor holds a poster of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange outside Ecuador's embassy in London REUTERS/Neil Hall
Image: Reuters

With tensions simmering between Ecuador and Britain on Friday the Organization of American States (OAS) scheduled an emergency meeting of its foreign ministers.

Twenty-three countries voted in favor of a resolution put forward by Ecuador to convene at the OAS's headquarters in Washington on August 21. The United States, Canada and Trinidad and Tobago voted against the meeting, while five other countries abstained.

The meeting is designed to address a standoff between the two nations which escalated on Wednesday when Ecuador accused Britain of threatening to storm its embassy in London, where the Australian national has been hiding for the last eight weeks. A day later tensions were heightened further when Quito agreed to offer Assange political asylum.

The 41-year-old is seeking to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over alleged sexual misconduct. He has also voiced fears that he may be sent on to the United States where he could face charges over the WikiLeaks publication of thousands of confidential US documents, many of which pertained to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Police and media gather outside the Ecuador embassy in west London August 16, 2012. Ecuador has granted political asylum to WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange, Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said on Thursday, a day after the British government threatened to storm the Ecuadorean embassy in London to arrest the former hacker. REUTERS/Olivia Harris (BRITAIN - Tags: POLITICS CRIME LAW)
Police are stationed outside the embassy ready to arrest AssangeImage: Reuters

Despite the offer of asylum, Assange faces arrest in Britain if he leaves the sanctuary of the embassy. He is wanted for breaching bail conditions set in 2010 and Britain remains determined to extradite him to Sweden. London has denied planning to force the situation, however, by raiding the London embassy.

"Allegations that the UK was threatening Ecuador and about to storm the embassy are without foundation," Philip Barton, Britain's envoy to the OAS as an observer, said on Friday.

ccp/lw (AFP, dpa)