Ambassador heads to Ecuador for Assange talks


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The Independent Online

The Ecuadorian ambassador is understood to be flying out to her nation's capital this weekend for talks on WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

The 40-year-old Australian is seeking political asylum in Ecuador to prevent him being extradited to Sweden and has been at the country's embassy in London since Tuesday. Mr Assange faces allegations of sex crimes in the Scandinavian country, which he denies.

Ambassador Anna Alban, who met the Government on Wednesday morning, is due to discuss the matter in Quito. A spokesman at the embassy would not officially confirm the visit "until she is on the plane".

Mr Assange faces arrest for breaching the terms of his bail if he leaves the Ecuadorian Embassy.

The South American country says he is under its protection while it considers the application, which comes after his failed bid to avoid extradition to Sweden under a European arrest warrant to face sex crime allegations.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office confirmed in a statement that he was "beyond the reach of the police" while he remains in the building.

Mr Assange's move to claim asylum is the latest twist in a marathon legal battle played out in the glare of worldwide publicity.

He is set to be extradited to Sweden, where he faces accusations of raping a woman and sexually molesting and coercing another in Stockholm in August 2010 while on a visit to give a lecture.

Mr Assange, whose WikiLeaks website has published a mass of leaked diplomatic cables that embarrassed several governments and international businesses, says the sex was consensual and the allegations against him are politically motivated.

In an telephone interview yesterday, he said the Ecuadorians "were sympathetic" to his case.

Ecuador's president Rafael Correa has told the BBC: "We are looking very seriously and responsibly at the asylum request of Mr Julian Assange. So until we complete the analysis of this request we cannot pronounce officially."