U.K. denies Assange diplomatic status after Ecuador request

LONDON, United Kingdom – Britain said on Thursday, January 11, it has denied a request by Ecuador to issue diplomatic status to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been living in the country's London embassy since 2012.

"The government of Ecuador recently requested diplomatic status for Mr Assange here in the UK. The UK did not grant that request, nor are we in talks with Ecuador on this matter," the British foreign ministry said in a statement.

Ecuador's attempt to obtain diplomatic status for the 46-year-old comes as part of the country's broader efforts to resolve the case of their long-term lodger, who moved into the embassy to avoid arrest over a Swedish probe into rape allegations.

Sweden dropped their investigation over the 2010 allegations last year, but British police have said they are still seeking to arrest him for failing to surrender to a court after violating bail terms.

"Ecuador knows that the way to resolve this issue is for Julian Assange to leave the embassy to face justice," Britain's foreign ministry said on Thursday. 

Assange has refused to step outside the embassy and claimed he fears being extradited to the United States, for WikiLeaks' publication of leaked secret US military documents and diplomatic cables in 2010.

Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa said on Tuesday her government is looking at the possibility of a "third country or a personality" stepping in to resolve the stand-off.

"No solution will be achieved without international cooperation and the cooperation of the United Kingdom, which has also shown interest in seeking a way out," Espinosa told foreign correspondents in Quito.

On Wednesday the Ecuadorian foreign ministry refused to comment on media reports that Assange, an Australian national, has been granted citizenship by the South American country. – Rappler.com