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Ecuador says UK would be 'suicidal' to try to enter embassy for Assange

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Story highlights

  • Ecuador says the UK would violate the sovereignty of its embassy if it entered
  • WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been staying there for two months
  • Assange is trying to avoid extradition to Sweden over sex crime allegations

The Ecuadorian president said the United Kingdom would be "suicidal" to come into Ecuador's embassy in London, where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been holed up since June.

"I think it would be suicidal for Great Britain to enter Ecuador's embassy. Later on, they could have their own embassies violated in all corners of the globe, and they'd have nothing to say about it," President Rafael Correa told state TV.

Assange fled to the Ecuadorian embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden to face questioning over sex crime allegations.

The dispute between Britain and Ecuador exploded when the British Foreign Office, in a letter to Ecuadorian officials, cited a little known law that could temporarily suspend the embassy's diplomatic protection and allow authorities to enter and arrest Assange.

Ecuador's Correa defends Assange asylum decision

Correa has slammed Britain's behavior toward Ecuador, describing it as "intolerable" and "unacceptable."

    "Who do they think they're dealing with?" Correa said during his weekly address Saturday. "They don't realize Latin America is free and sovereign. We won't tolerate interference, colonialism of any kind."

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    Last week, Ecuador officially offered Assange asylum in the South American country, but the British say they will not give him safe passage out of the embassy.

    The Foreign Office says Britain has a legal obligation to hand him over to Sweden, after Assange's legal efforts to avoid extradition were rejected by British courts up to the Supreme Court.

    Assange's lawyer, Baltasar Garzon, said his client was willing to answer Swedish prosecutors' questions, but only if he is given certain guarantees.

    Assange, an Australian, and his supporters claim a U.S. grand jury has been empaneled to consider charges against him.

    Assange claims to fear Sweden will transfer him to the United States, where he could face the death penalty for the work of WikiLeaks.

    Sweden angrily rejected the allegation last week.

    "Sweden does not extradite individuals who risk facing the death penalty," the Foreign Ministry said.

    On Sunday, Assange demanded the United States drop its "witch hunt" against WikiLeaks when he made his first public appearance in months.

    "As WikiLeaks stands under threat, so does the freedom of expression and the health of all our societies," the founder of website said to cheers from supporters outside the Ecuadorian embassy.

    "The U.S. war on whistle-blowers must end," he said, calling for the freedom of Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier suspected of giving hundreds of thousands of pages of secret American government documents to Assange for publication on WikiLeaks.

    Assange has been effectively confined for the past two months to the diplomatic mission -- a suite of rooms covering half of one floor of a townhouse in a posh London neighborhood south of Hyde Park.

    Two years ago, Swedish prosecutors first issued a warrant for his arrest over allegations that he raped one woman and sexually molested another.

    Assange and diplomatic asylum: A primer

    Assange said the allegations in Sweden are politically motivated and tied to the work of his website, which facilitates the publication of secret documents. He has published hundreds of thousands of pages of American government diplomatic cables and assessments of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    Correa has sought support on the issue from foreign ministers of the the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) and the leftist Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), who gathered in Guayaquil, Ecuador, over the weekend.

    UNASUR backed Ecuador's decision to grant Assange asylum and called for more dialogue between Britain and Ecuador on the issue. It condemned the "threat of the use of force" and expressed its hope that the countries could arrive at a "mutually acceptable solution."

    ALBA, whose membership includes Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, warned Britain on Saturday against raiding the embassy.

    "We warn the government of the United Kingdom that it will face grave consequences around the world if it directly breaches the territorial integrity of the Embassy of the Republic of Ecuador in London," according to a statement read by Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro on behalf of ALBA nations.

    Standoff at embassy, after Ecuador grants asylum

    Opinion: Assange's stubborn grip hurt WikiLeaks

    Why Assange needs Ecuador and why Ecuador needs Assange

    What's next for Assange's extradition battle?

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