President says UK 'threat' to enter Ecuador's embassy is over


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Ecuador's President says Britain has withdrawn its threat to enter his country's embassy to arrest Julian Assange, in a sign that relations between the two countries may be thawing.

President Rafael Correa said the UK had been guilty of a "grave diplomatic error" but revealed that his government had now received assurances that police would not enter the embassy where the WikiLeaks founder has been holed up for two months.

Ecuador was angered after Britain warned there was a basis in law to seize Mr Assange, who is wanted for questioning in Sweden over rape and sexual-assault allegations. But in his weekly message over the weekend, the Ecuadorean President said he considered "this unfortunate incident over".

Mr Correa also questioned the motives of Mr Assange's alleged victims. In an interview reported in The Sunday Times, he said that if they had been sexually assaulted they would have reported the WikiLeaks founder immediately. Their failure to do so was "very suspicious", he said, adding: "The crimes that Assange is accused of would not be crimes in 90 to 95 per cent of the planet."

Women's support groups insist there is no "normal" way for sex-assault victims to behave.

The Foreign Office denied directly threatening to enter the embassy, but the claims led to a diplomatic spat with Latin American nations that warned it could set a dangerous precedent.

The dispute began after Ecuador's Minister for Foreign Affairs released a letter from the Foreign Office which stated there was 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".

Mr Assange remains trapped inside the embassy with police waiting outside. The Foreign Office said it was determined to meet its legal obligations to extradite Mr Assange to Sweden.