16 Aug 2012

Britain warns Ecuador it could enter embassy to get Assange

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."

Ricardo Patino

"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.