Ecuador President Rafael Correa has warned Britain not to attempt to enter his country's embassy in London to seize Julian Assange, claiming that to do so would be an act of political suicide that would leave the UK's diplomatic premises vulnerable the world over.
Speaking on state television days after his government announced it had decided to grant the WikiLeaks founder political asylum, Rafael Correa showed little sign of seeking to ease tensions with Britain, which threatened last week to use an obscure piece of legislation to enter the Ecuadorean embassy and arrest the Australian.
"I think it would be suicidal for the United Kingdom," he said, according to the Spanish news agency Efe. "After that, the diplomatic premises of [the UK] in other territories could be violated all over the world." Such a move, he added, would be "disastrous" for all countries, but especially for Britain.
Downing Street has said Britain is committed to seeking a diplomatic solution with Ecuador in the standoff over Assange, whom it insists it is obliged to extradite to Sweden to face questioning over allegations of sexual misconduct, which he denies.
But last week, as Ecuador prepared to announce its decision to grant Assange asylum, foreign office officials in Quito delivered a letter to the Ecuadorean government in which they claimed a legal right under the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987 to revoke an embassy's diplomatic status.
The threat provoked an angry response from Correa. Asked on Monday night whether he thought there was any chance the British authorities would carry out its threat, the BBC reported that the president said: "While the United Kingdom hasn't retracted or apologised, the danger still exists."
Assange has been in the embassy in Knightsbridge since mid-June, and, despite Quito's offer, cannot leave for the airport as Britain is refusing to give him safe passage. The interview with Correa opened with a brief report from inside the embassy, showing the 41-year-old Assange embracing his lawyer Baltasar Garzón, minutes before he addressed supporters from the balcony outside on Sunday.
Speaking in advance of a meeting of the Organisation of American States on Friday, Correa said he hoped the gathering would provide him with strong backing from regional allies.
"Remember that David beat Goliath. And with many Davids it's easier to bring down a number of Goliaths," he said. "So we're hoping for clear and coherent backing because this violates all inter-American law, all international law, the Vienna convention and all diplomatic traditions of the last, at least, 300 years on a global scale." – © Guardian News and Media 2012