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Not up to US to decide on Assange asylum, Ecuador says

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Ecuadoran President Lenin Moreno listens as he gives a statement along with US Vice President Mike Pence (out of frame) after a meeting, at the Carondelet presidential palace in Quito, on June 28, 2018.<br />Pence visits Ecuador as part of a Latin American tour. / AFP PHOTO / Cristina VEGA

It’s not up to Washington to decide the fate of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, Ecuador’s top diplomat said Friday, following the visit of US Vice President Mike Pence.

Pence “raised the issue” of the Australian anti-secrecy activist — holed up at Ecuador’s embassy in London since 2012 — when he met with Lenin Moreno on Thursday, an official with the US vice president’s office confirmed.

“Ecuador and the United Kingdom, and of course Mr Assange as a person who is currently staying, on asylum, at our embassy” will decide the next steps, Foreign Minister Jose Valencia told reporters.

“It does not enter, therefore, on an agenda with the United States.”

Pence and Moreno “agreed to remain in close coordination on potential next steps going forward,” the US official told reporters traveling with Pence.

Assange, 46, sought refuge in Ecuador’s London embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden to face sexual assault allegations, which he denies.

Assange claims the accusations were politically motivated and could lead to his extradition to the United States to face imprisonment over WikiLeaks’s publication of secret US military documents and diplomatic cables in 2010.

Swedish authorities dropped their investigations last year, but British authorities still want to arrest him for breaching bail conditions.

In March, Ecuador cut off Assange’s ability to communicate with the outside world after he broke a 2017 promise to not interfere in other countries’ affairs while in the mission.

And in May, Ecuador withdrew additional security measures at its London embassy following an investigation that found that the previous administration of Rafael Correa had spent $5 million on a spy operation to protect Assange.

Last week, Valencia said that Ecuador “is hoping to solve this problem, because in principle an asylum is not eternal, one cannot conceive of an asylum that lasts for years.”


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