POLITICS

WikiLeaks' Julian Assange Prepared To Remain In Ecuador Embassy For 'Five Years'

17/06/2013 12:36 BST

Julian Assange is prepared to stay holed up in the Ecuadorean embassy for five years, the country's foreign minister has said, as Britain and Ecuador failed to agree over the WikiLeaks' founder's future.

Assange has been in self-imposed exile within Ecuador's London mission for almost a year in an attempt to avoid extradition to Sweden - where he faces accusations of of rape and sexual assault.

The WikiLeaks founder's statement of defiance came after William Hague and Ecuador's foreign minister Ricardo Patiño failed to make a "breakthrough" over the future of Assange.

Ecuador has offered Assange asylum but the British government has said it would arrest him should he leave the embassy's grounds.

The foreign secretary and Patiño held a 45-minute meeting this morning but the British government said "no substantive progress was made" in resolving the impasse. However the pair did agree to establish a "working group" to find a diplomatic solution.

Patiño, who met Assange on Sunday, said the fugitive was in "good spirits" despite being confined to the small embassy in Knightsbridge, central London.

"I was able to say face to face to him, for the first time, that the government of Ecuador remains firmly committed to protecting his human rights and that we continue to seek cast-iron assurances to avoid any onward extradition to a third state," he said.

"During the meeting we were able to speak about the increasing threats against the freedom of people to communicate and to know the truth, threats which come from certain states that have put all of humanity under suspicion."

Assange fears he will be extradited to the United States to face charges over the WikiLeaks cables if he is first taken to Sweden.

He told The Huffington Post earlier this month that the prosecution of Bradley Manning, the US soldier accused of having passed classified material to the website WikiLeaks, was a "show trial".

"The prosecution has vigorously fought to exclude all evidence as to motives, and all evidence as to outcomes," Assange said. "No one was harmed as a result of the publications."

"The case is a sledgehammer," he added. "It is there to try and terrorize anyone else into [not] being a force for the media by trying to terrorize this young man."