Britain considers talks with Ecuador over Assange

LONDON Mon Jun 3, 2013 1:55pm IST

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gestures from the balcony of Ecuador's Embassy as he makes a speech, in central London December 20, 2012. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor/Files

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange gestures from the balcony of Ecuador's Embassy as he makes a speech, in central London December 20, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Luke MacGregor/Files

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LONDON (Reuters) - Britain is considering holding talks with Ecuador over the future of Julian Assange, the Foreign Office said on Monday, in the first sign of a possible solution to the year-long diplomatic standoff over the Wikileaks founder.

Assange, 41, took refuge in Ecuador's tiny embassy in London last June to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over sex assault and rape allegations. He denies the allegations.

A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office said it was considering a request made by Ecuador's foreign minister Ricardo Patino to meet Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague when Patino visits London later this month.

"We're considering that request. We hope the visit will contribute to our joint commitment to finding a diplomatic solution to this issue," the spokeswoman said.

The request comes as Bradley Manning, the American soldier charged with "aiding the enemy" by providing WikiLeaks with more than 700,000 classified documents, goes on trial in the United States later on Monday.

Assange said last year he expected to wait six months to a year for a deal that would allow him to leave the embassy, after Ecuador's socialist president, Rafael Correa, angered Britain by granting him asylum.

Ecuador argues that Assange's deportation to Sweden is part of a scheme by the U.S. government to have the former computer hacker extradited to American soil so that he too can face charges over WikiLeaks' release of the U.S. documents.

U.S. and European government sources say the United States has issued no criminal charges against him, nor launched any attempts to extradite him.

(Reporting by Sarah Young; editing by Stephen Addison)

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