British minister predicts long showdown over Julian Assange
UNITED NATIONS — Britain and Ecuador face a prolonged showdown over the asylum bid by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in the South American nation’s London embassy, Britain’s foreign minister William Hague said Tuesday.
Assange is to speak by videolink to a meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York on Wednesday to back his case to be allowed to avoid extradition to Sweden on sexual assault charges.
Hague told reporters in New York that he had held talks with Ecuador’s Vice President Lenin Moreno in August over the Australian activist and that negotiations would continue.
“I’ve seen no sign of any breakthrough since our meeting,” Hague said.
“The position was to uphold the law in the United Kingdom. That remains the position. This may go on for some time.” The British minister is to hold talks with Ecuador’s Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino on Thursday.
Hague would not comment on Assange’s plan to speak to diplomats and reporters at the UN event organized by the Ecuador government.
Patino will speak with the WikiLeaks founder who entered the London mission on June 19.
Assange took shelter in the Ecuadoran embassy after exhausting all appeals against extradition from to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over the sexual assault allegations. Ecuador has granted him diplomatic asylum.
Assange, 41, fears Sweden will hand him over to the United States, where he could face prosecution over WikiLeaks’ release of a vast cache of leaked Iraq and Afghanistan war reports and diplomatic cables.
The activist’s lawyers and supporters say he would not get a fair trial in the United States.
Ecuador has reportedly made one proposal that Assange be transferred to Sweden but stay under the protection of the Ecuador government.