(QUITO, Ecuador) — Ecuadorean officials said Wednesday that they would announce their final decision on whether to grant asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange Thursday, but also claimed that the British government had threatened to raid the country’s London embassy to get Assange back.
“Today we’ve received a threat by the United Kingdom, a clear and written threat that they could storm our embassy in London if Ecuador refuses to hand in Julian Assange,” said Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino.
Patino said that Ecuador will announce its decision on Assange’s asylum request Thursday morning. Some media outlets reported Wednesday that Assange had been granted asylum, but Ecuadorean officials said at the time that no decision had been reached.
Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorean embassy on June 19, after a U.K. court declined to block his extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning in connection with alleged sexual assaults.
Assange has said he fears that Sweden will hand him over to the United States. WikiLeaks has released thousands of confidential U.S. documents on the web, including many State Department cables.
Should Assange win asylum in Ecuador, he would still have to get from the embassy, which is considered Ecuadorean soil, to an airport to board a flight to South America without being arrested by British police.
British diplomatic officials in the U.S. did not immediately respond to an ABC News request for comment. According to the BBC, a Foreign Office spokesman said the U.K. government is, “committed to reaching a mutually acceptable solution.”
The British government has also reportedly reminded the Ecuadorean government that under law it can revoke the diplomatic immunity of an embassy, which would enable officials to enter the building and apprehend Assange.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Michael Pearson and Barbie Nadeau, CNN Newswire
Barbara Starr, Tom LoBianco, Holly Yan and Jim Sciutto, CNN Newswire