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Govt 'threat to arrest Assange'
The Government has told the Ecuadorian authorities it believes it can enter its embassy in London and arrest WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is seeking political asylum.
The dramatic development came two months after Mr Assange suddenly walked into the embassy in a bid to avoid being extradited to Sweden where he faces allegations of sexual assault.
Ecuador's minister for foreign affairs, Ricardo Patino, released details of a letter he said was delivered through a British embassy official in the capital of the South American country, Quito.
The letter said: "You need to be aware that there is 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. We sincerely hope that we do not reach that point, but if you are not capable of resolving this matter of Mr Assange's presence in your premises, this is an open option for us."
An Ecuadorian government spokesman said he was "deeply shocked" by the British government's "threats". The Ecuadorian government spokesman said: "We are deeply shocked by the British government's threats against the sovereignty of the Ecuadorian Embassy and their suggestion that they may forcibly enter the embassy. This a clear breach of international law and the protocols set out in the Vienna Convention.
"Throughout out the last 56 days Mr Julian Assange has been in the Embassy, the Ecuadorian Government has acted honourably in all our attempts to seek a resolution to the situation. This stands in stark contrast to the escalation of the British Government today with their threats to break down the door of the Ecuadorian Embassy. Instead of threatening violence against the Ecuadorian Embassy, the British Government should use its energy to find a peaceful resolution to this situation which we are aiming to achieve."
Mr Assange denies the allegations against him, but fears he will be sent to the United States if he goes to Sweden. An offer to the Swedish authorities by Ecuador for investigators to interview Mr Assange inside the London embassy was rejected.
A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "We have consistently made our position clear in our discussions with the government of Ecuador. We have an obligation to extradite Mr Assange and it is only right that we give Ecuador the full picture.... We are still committed to reaching a mutually acceptable solution."
A number of police officers were later seen entering the building, close to the Harrods store in Knightsbridge.
Mr Patino added later: "Ecuador, as a state that respects rights and justice and is a democratic and peaceful nation state, rejects in the strongest possible terms the explicit threat of the British official communication. This is unbecoming of a democratic, civilised and law abiding state. If this conduct persists, Ecuador will take appropriate responses in accordance with international law."