Britain 'threatened to storm Ecuador's London embassy' to arrest Julian Assange
UK threatens to enter Ecuador embassy
The British government has told Ecuador it is 'determined' to extradite WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
ECUADOR'S foreign minister says Britain has threatened to storm his country's London embassy to arrest WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
The accusation comes ahead of an imminent decision on whether Ecuador will grant asylum to Mr Assange, who has been taking refuge in its London embassy since June, Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino says.
As news broke of the pending decision, a number of police officers were seen reinforcing Scotland Yard's presence outside the embassy in Knightsbridge near the Harrods department store.
Mr Patino said on Wednesday that Ecuador ''has made a decision'' and will announce it on Thursday at 7.00am (2200 AEST). He had earlier presented a report on the case to Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa.
Meanwhile Britain has said it was ''determined'' to extradite Mr Assange to Sweden where he faces sexual assault claims.
''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,'' said a Foreign Office spokesman.
Britain's Foreign Office issued a statement later Wednesday citing a 1987 British law it says permits the revocation of diplomatic status of a building if the foreign power occupying it ''ceases to use land for the purposes of its mission or exclusively for the purposes of a consular post.''
Mr Patino told a news conference that Ecuador received a written threat on Wednesday from Britain that "it could assault our embassy" if Assange was not handed over.
He said Britain's threat was delivered to Ecuador's Foreign Ministry and ambassador in London.
The Australian has been holed up in the embassy since June 19, taking refuge to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faces questioning for alleged sexual misconduct. Assange's supporters say the charges are trumped up and believe the US has secretly indicted him and would extradite him from Sweden.
Even if the asylum request is granted, it is unclear whether Mr Assange will be allowed to leave as British police are waiting outside the embassy ready to arrest him for breaching the terms of his bail granted in 2010.
"They could storm our embassy if Ecuador does not hand over Julian Assange," Mr Patino said.
"The position taken by the government of Great Britain is unacceptable, both from the political and the legal point of view," the foreign minister said.
He warned that entering the embassy without authorisation "would be a flagrant violation of the Vienna Convention" on diplomatic relations.
The British Foreign Office said in its statement that it hoped a ''mutually acceptable'' solution could still be found, but warned it would do all it could to extradite the former hacker.
''We have an obligation to extradite Mr Assange and it is only right that we give Ecuador the full picture,'' the spokesman said of the letter.
''Throughout this process have 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 to the legal status of diplomatic premises in the UK.
''We are still committed to reaching a mutually acceptable solution.''
In Australia, Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said while she was taking ''an absolute interest'' in his plight, there were limits to what she could do.
''We've certainly made diplomatic contact and we've obviously been providing consular support as well but ultimately ... this is a matter between Mr Assange and Ecuador,'' she told ABC radio.
''Increasingly it seems it's a matter between Ecuador and the UK.''
Mr Assange had embarked on a marathon round of court battles, but finally exhausted all his options under British law in June when the Supreme Court overturned his appeal against extradition.
Quito had said it was reviewing the sexual misconduct allegations as it weighs his asylum request. Assange maintains he had consensual sex with the alleged Swedish victims.
Mr Correa has said that the mere possibility that Mr Assange could face capital punishment in the United States could be reason enough for his government to grant the activist's asylum petition.
Mr Assange's WikiLeaks website infuriated Washington when it released hundreds of thousands of secret war reports from Iraq and Afghanistan and countless US embassy cables containing unguarded and at times embarrassing remarks by a number of world leaders and diplomats.
The leftist Mr Correa has often been at odds with Washington and has expressed support for Mr Assange, offering him asylum as far back as 2010 before later backing off.
Offering shelter to a high-profile figure like Assange - hailed as a whistleblower by his supporters - could help Mr Correa push back against critics who accuse him of clamping down on press freedom.