QUITO — Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa has said he expects to respond to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange's application for political asylum some time this week.
"Hopefully this week we will be able to make a statement on the matter," the leftist leader said in an interview with public broadcaster ECTV late Monday.
Assange, 41, took refuge at Ecuador's embassy in London on June 19 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is accused of sexual assault.
"We expect to have a meeting no later than Wednesday," Correa said, referring to his diplomats in London.
The WikiLeaks founder fears that from Sweden, he could subsequently be re-extradited to the United States to stand trial for espionage, after a trove of leaked US diplomatic cables and military logs were published on his website.
In the interview, Correa acknowledged that he felt "sympathy" toward Assange, but that he also felt "sympathy" toward Great Britain, alluding to the framework of English and International law involved in the case.
"We will act in strict accordance with the principles of Ecuador and always respecting the friendly nations, but obviously also respecting the rights of the person that has asked for asylum in Ecuador," he said.
Correa has said the mere possibility that the WikiLeaks founder could face capital punishment in the United States could be sufficient reason for his government to grant the activist's asylum request.
He has vowed that his government would not yield to pressure from Britain, Sweden or the United States over the asylum decision.
But even if Ecuador grants Assange's request, British authorities could refuse to let him to leave the country.