* Quito says it would see a raid as a "hostile and
* UK says obliged by law to extradite Assange to Sweden
* Ecuador to announce asylum decision on Thursday
By Eduardo Garcia and Maria Golovnina
QUITO/LONDON, Aug 15 Britain on Wednesday warned
Ecuador that it could raid its London embassy if Quito does not
hand over WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been taking
refuge at the mission since mid-June.
In Quito, the Ecuadorean government said that any such
action would be considered a violation of its sovereignty a
"hostile and intolerable act."
"Under British law we can give them a weeks' notice before
entering the premises and the embassy will no longer have
diplomatic protection," a Foreign Office spokesman said. "But
that decision has not yet been taken. We are not going to do
this overnight. We want to stress that we want a diplomatically
In Quito, the government bristled at the threat and said it
would announce its decision on Assange's asylum request on
Thursday at 7 a.m. (1200 GMT).
"We want to be very clear, we're not a British colony. The
colonial times are over," Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo
Patino said in an angry statement after a meeting with President
"The move announced in the official British statement, if
it happens, would be interpreted by Ecuador as an unfriendly,
hostile and intolerable act, as well as an attack on our
sovereignty, which would force us to respond in the strongest
diplomatic way," Patino told reporters.
Ecuador, whose government is part of a left-leaning bloc of
nations in South America, called for meetings of regional
foreign ministers and the hemispheric Organization of American
States to rally support in its complaint against Britain.
WANTED IN SWEDEN
The Australian has been in the embassy for eight weeks since
losing a legal battle to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he
has been accused of rape and sexual assault by two WikiLeaks
"The UK has a legal obligation to extradite Mr Assange to
Sweden to face questioning over allegations of sexual offences
and we remain determined to fulfill this obligation," a Foreign
Office spokesman said earlier.
Swedish prosecutors have not yet charged Assange, but they
have moved forward with their investigations and they believe
they have a case to take to trial.
Assange fears Sweden could send him on to the United States,
where he believes authorities want to punish him for publishing
thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic cables on WikiLeaks in 2010
in a major embarrassment for Washington.
Even if he were granted asylum, Assange has little chance
of leaving the Ecuadorean embassy in London without being
The red-brick embassy building, just outside London's famed
Harrods department store, was under tight surveillance late into
the night, with three police officers manning the entrance and
several others patrolling around the premises of the building.
There has been speculation he could travel to an airport in
a diplomatic car, be smuggled out in a diplomatic bag, or even
be appointed an Ecuadorean diplomat to give him immunity.
But lawyers and diplomats see those scenarios as practically
The Ecuadorean government has said it wants to avoid
Assange's extradition to Sweden, but approval of asylum would
offer no legal protection in Britain where police will arrest
him once they get a chance.
"The question of asylum is arguably a red herring," said
former British government lawyer Carl Gardner.
Ecuador's leader Correa is a self-declared enemy of
"corrupt" media and U.S. "imperialism", and apparently hit it
off with Assange during a TV interview the Australian did with
hin in May.
Correa joked then with Assange that he had joined "the club
of the persecuted".
Some, though, find Assange's connection with Ecuador odd,
given that Correa is labeled a persecutor of the media by
journalism freedom groups.