Britain warns Ecuador it could enter embassy to get Assange

Wed Aug 15, 2012 7:27pm EDT
 

By Eduardo Garcia and Maria Golovnina

QUITO/LONDON (Reuters) - Britain on Wednesday warned Ecuador that it could raid its London embassy if Quito does not hand over WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been taking refuge at the mission since mid-June.

In Quito, the Ecuadorean government said that any such action would be considered a violation of its sovereignty a "hostile and intolerable act."

"Under British law we can give them a weeks' notice before entering the premises and the embassy will no longer have diplomatic protection," a Foreign Office spokesman said. "But that decision has not yet been taken. We are not going to do this overnight. We want to stress that we want a diplomatically agreeable solution."

In Quito, the government bristled at the threat and said it would announce its decision on Assange's asylum request on Thursday at 7 a.m. (1200 GMT).

"We want to be very clear, we're not a British colony. The colonial times are over," Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said in an angry statement after a meeting with President Rafael Correa.

"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.

Ecuador, whose government is part of a left-leaning bloc of nations in South America, called for meetings of regional foreign ministers and the hemispheric Organization of American States to rally support in its complaint against Britain.

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Ecuador's Foreign Affairs Minister Ricardo Patino attends a news conference at his office in Quito August 15, 2012. REUTERS/Guillermo Granja