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Britain denies Julian Assange's request for diplomatic status

12 January 2018, 03:20 | Myrtle Vega

Ecuador seeks mediator to resolve 'untenable' Julian Assange standoff: Foreign minister

Ecuadoran President Lenin Moreno has been infuriated by Assange's criticism of his political allies abroad

On Tuesday, Ecuador's foreign minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa said Assange's stay had become "untenable" and she was seeking a mediator's assistance.

She added she feared for threats to Assange's life from third-party states.

Assange, who has not left his cramped accommodation in fear of arrest by British authorities, has responded to the news by posting an image on Twitter wearing the Ecuadorian national soccer team's shirt.

News of his naturalization comes a day after he it was revealed he had been given an Ecuadorian passport.

Assange, 46, has been living in the London embassy of the south American country for five-and-a-half years after being granted political asylum as he fought sex-related claims in Sweden.

Hours before Ecuador's announcement, Britain said it had rejected a request by Ecuador to grant Assange diplomatic immunity so that he could leave the embassy.

"There are well-founded fears we have about possible risks to his life and integrity, not necessarily by the United Kingdom but by third party states".

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A spokeswoman for the British Foreign Office said that from its perspective: "He is free to leave the Ecuadorean embassy whenever he wants".

However, UK police say he will be arrested if he leaves the embassy in Knightsbridge for failing to surrender to the court in 2012. He fears that if arrested by UK authorities they he will be extradited to the United States whose government is looking to prosecute Assange for publishing thousands of USA classified military and diplomatic documents via his Wikileaks page.

The anti-secrecy group's chief has been based at the Ecuador embassy in central London since 2012 after he lost appeals against sexual assault charges in Sweden.

Assange's legal team this week reiterated its demand that London abide by the United Nations ruling declaring him to be unlawfully and arbitrarily detained and calling for him to be freed and compensated.

Ecuador remains willing to shield Assange from any possible extradition for the immediate future but has no way of extracting him without London police interference, hence the impasse.

Prosecutors there dropped the allegations in May 2017.

"A person can not live in those conditions forever", she added, reiterating that Ecuador will continue to provide the whistleblower with all necessary assistance. The US attorney general, Jeff Sessions, said last May that Assange's arrest was now a "priority".

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