UK Refuses to Grant Assange Diplomatic Status - Foreign Office

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange | AP

Ecuador said Thursday it had granted citizenship to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in an unsuccessful attempt to provide him with diplomatic immunity and usher him out of its London embassy without the threat of arrest by Britain.

Ecuador's foreign minister, MarĂ­a Fernanda Espinosa, said her country was now seeking a "third country or a personality" to mediate a settlement with the United Kingdom to resolve the impasse and said it was "considering and exploring the possibility of mediation".

Ecuador gave Assange political asylum after he sought refuge in the embassy in 2012 to avoid a Swedish extradition request on a case of alleged rape.

The charges against Assange have been dropped by Swedish prosecutors due to the impossibility of serving him notice, but the Metropolitan Police, which spent millions of pounds maintaining watch over the embassy, said he still faced a charge of failing to surrender to a court.

Britain said earlier on Thursday it had refused a request by Ecuador for Assange to be given diplomatic status, a spokesman for Britain's Foreign Office said. "He also fears a possible USA extradition request based on his leaking of classified State Department documents".

He was wanted in Sweden for questioning over rape accusations.

Ecuador is seeking to make progress with Britain over the fate of Julian Assange.

"Ecuador is now exploring other solutions in dialogue with the UK", Ecuador's foreign minister, Maria Fernanda Espinosa, told reporters Thursday.

Ecuador's newly elected president Lenin Moreno has warned Assange that he must respect asylum conditions and refrain from getting involved in the affairs of other countries. Assange was arrested in London in December that year on a pan-European warrant. She said in a news conference Thursday in Quito, the Ecuadoran capital, that Assange was granted citizenship on December 12, after having applied for it in September.

The United States still wants to prosecute Julian Assange under the Espionage Act of 1917. The Ecuadoran Foreign Ministry at first responded that it would not address "rumors or distorted or out-of-context information", Germany's DPA news agency reported.

A United Nations panel concluded in 2016 that Mr Assange was under arbitrary detention.

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