OAS urges Britain, Ecuador to resolve Assange row
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Organization of American States on Friday urged the governments of Britain and Ecuador to peacefully end a standoff over WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who was granted asylum by Ecuador and is holed up in that country's embassy in London.
Meeting at OAS headquarters in Washington at Ecuador's request, foreign ministers and senior officials from the 34-member bloc adopted a resolution that calls for the two sides to continue a dialogue to resolve the situation. Assange is wanted in Sweden for questioning on sex allegations, and Britain says it will arrest and extradite him if he leaves the Ecuadorian Embassy.
Ecuador had accused Britain of threatening to raid its embassy in violation of diplomatic conventions to extract Assange and had sought support from the OAS in objecting to such a possibility.
However, due to objections from the United States, Canada and others, including Panama and Trinidad and Tobago, all of whom said the OAS was not the proper venue to discuss a bilateral dispute, references to the alleged threat were removed from a draft resolution offered by Ecuador and strongly backed by leftist allies Venezuela and Nicaragua.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro maintained that Britain had made the threat in an Aug. 15 communique that said there were legal grounds on which British authorities could revoke the diplomatic status of the embassy in order to arrest Assange on the premises. He called it "not only a threat, but a very blunt threat."
Britain sent a letter to both Ecuador and the OAS late Thursday denying that the communique was a threat and pledging to respect the Vienna Conventions that set out the inviolability of diplomatic missions.
But Maduro told the OAS that the initial threat had not been withdrawn and that Ecuador still considered it operative. Ecuador and its allies had wanted the OAS resolution to say Britain had put the inviolability of diplomatic missions "at risk" with its Aug. 15 communique.
Instead, however, that language was deleted and the resolution reiterated "the obligation of all states not to invoke provisions of their domestic law to justify noncompliance with their international obligations and (expressed) its solidarity and support for the government of the Republic of Ecuador."
Assange and his supporters claim the Swedish sex case is the first move of a Washington-orchestrated plot to make him stand trial in the U.S. for publishing hundreds of thousands of secret Pentagon and State Department documents that were allegedly leaked by Pfc. Bradley Manning, who is awaiting trial in the scandal. The U.S. and Sweden dispute this.
Assange took refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London two months ago and was last week granted diplomatic asylum by Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa.