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Ecuador backed by South America in Wikileaks' Julian Assange extradition row

Ecuador's decision to grant Wikileaks founder Julian Assange asylum has been backed by foreign ministers from countries across South America.

BBC News reports that a document agreed at the Union of South American Nations meeting in Ecuador said it supported the country "in the face of the threat" to its London embassy, where he has been since June.

The UK has said it could potentially lift the embassy's diplomatic status. Assange faces extradition to Sweden over sexual assault claims he denies.

Ecuador's President Rafael Correa has suggested Assange could co-operate with Sweden if assurances are given that there would be no extradition to a third country.

According to BBC News, supporters of Assange - who on Sunday urged the US to end its "witch-hunt" against the Wikileaks site - claim he could face persecution and even the death penalty if sent there.

After Ecuador's Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino finished reading the final declaration from the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) summit, he joined hands with his fellow foreign ministers and raised them aloft.

The BBC's Will Grant said it was a symbolic but important show of unity in a region which considers the UK government's approach over Assange to have been colonialist and threatening.

Ecuador has described a letter from the British government drawing attention to the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987 as "intolerable" and an "explicit threat".

The act could allow the UK to lift the diplomatic status of Ecuador's embassy in London to allow police to enter the building to arrest Mr Assange for breaching his bail terms.

Assange has been at the embassy since 19 June. Five days earlier, the UK's Supreme Court dismissed his bid to reopen an appeal against his extradition to Sweden.

He had been on bail while the case was being considered and, after the Supreme Court result, was given a further two-week grace period.

Yesterday, Assange, 41, used his first public statement since entering the embassy - delivered from a balcony - to call on the US to stop its "war on whistle-blowers".

As BBC News explained, the US is carrying out an investigation into Wikileaks, which has published a mass of leaked diplomatic cables, embarrassing several governments and international businesses.

Source: BBC

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