16:04 16 August 2012
The government has issued a bold threat to enter the Ecuadorian embassy in London in order to arrest WikiLeaders founder Julian Assange, who is currently seeking political asylum there.
Australian activist Assange is in risk of being extradited to Sweden to face allegations of sexual assault, but his notoriety stems mainly from his founding of the non-profit site Wikileaks which discloses classified documents via whistleblowers, news leaks and official sources and makes them public, usually resulting in scandal.
Ecuador's minister for foreign affairs, Ricardo Patino, released details of a letter to the press which he claims was delivered through a British embassy official in Quito.
The letter read: "You need to be aware that there is a legal base in the UK, the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987, that would allow us to take actions in order to arrest Mr Assange in the current premises of the Embassy.
"We sincerely hope that we do not reach that point, but if you are not capable of resolving this matter of Mr Assange's presence in your premises, this is an open option for us."
Mr Patino was quoted by the Telegraph as saying: "Today we received from the United Kingdom an express threat, in writing, that they might storm our embassy in London if we don't hand over Julian Assange.
"If the measure announced in the British official communication is enacted, it will be interpreted by Ecuador as an unacceptable, unfriendly and hostile act and as an attempt against our sovereignty. It would force us to respond. We are not a British colony".
Countering this argument, an official spokeswoman for the Foreign office said Britain is obligated to extradite Assange. Their statement, released to the press, downplayed the apparent threat and stated that it was only giving "Ecuador the full picture".
The Foreign Office statement said: "Throughout this process we have drawn the Ecuadorians' attention to relevant provisions of our law, whether, for example, the extensive human rights safeguards in our extradition procedures, or the legal status of diplomatic premises in the UK.
"The UK has a legal obligation to extradite Mr Assange to Sweden to face questioning over allegations of sexual offences and we remain determined to fulfil this obligation.
"We have an obligation to extradite Mr Assange and it is only right that we give Ecuador the full picture.
"We are still committed to reaching a mutually acceptable solution."
On Thursday, the Ecuadorian government will announce whether it would give Assange asylum.
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