Ecuador says talks with Britain over Julian Assange at an impasse
LONDON (Reuters) - Ecuador said on Thursday that talks with Britain on a standoff over WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange were at an impasse as the Australian prepared to spend a third year holed up at the country's London embassy.
Assange, 42, fled to the South American country's embassy in June 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden to face allegations of sexual assault and rape, which he denies.
He says he fears Sweden could extradite him to the United States to try him for one of the largest information leaks in U.S. history if he agrees to go.
Ecuador, which has granted Assange political asylum, wants London to assure him safe passage to Quito. But Britain has surrounded the Ecuadorean embassy with police officers round the clock ready to detain him if he leaves it.
Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino flew to London a year ago to meet his British counterpart to try to broker a deal. Both countries agreed at the time to create a working group to try to resolve the standoff.
But Patino said on Thursday the two had not even managed to set up the working group.
"There seems to be an impasse from a legal point of view," Patino told reporters through a translator, speaking via video link from Ecuador. "We could not agree on specific objectives for the group so we haven't even formed the group a year later."
Assange told the same news conference that his lawyers had advised him there was still a "serious risk" he would be extradited to the United States if he gave up political asylum.
Complaining he hadn't seen his children for four years, he said "some of them" had been forced to move locations and change their names after threats against their lives had been made by unspecified individuals.
Assange's lawyers will launch legal proceedings in Sweden next week to try to get the case there against him dropped, he said.
(Reporting by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Tom Heneghan)