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LONDON – The British and foreign media early Thursday stepped up their coverage of a looming diplomatic showdown between Ecuador and the U.K. over the future of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
The countries engaged in a war of words ahead of an expected announcement from the Latin American country mid-day Thursday about Assange’s request for political asylum.
News channels BBC News and Sky News here featured regular updates about the situation early on Thursday from reporters outside the embassy, while newspapers promised regular updates online and via Twitter.
TV pictures also showed various other reporters standing outside the Ecuadorian embassy. Sky News said there were “close to 100 supporters” of Assange as of mid-day Thursday and a number of TV and media crews larger than that.
Ecuador’s foreign minister overnight attacked Britain for what he called a threat from the government here to raid the country’s London embassy if it doesn’t hand over Assange who has been holed up there for about two months. Assange had walked into Ecuador’s embassy earlier this summer to avoid extradition to Sweden where he faces charges of sexual assault, but London police have signaled they won’t let him walk free.
Overnight, it was reported that Britain had told Ecuador that it could even enter the embassy to get to Assange, citing certain laws as supporting its cause. BBC News and Sky News early Thursday showed a clip of Ecuador foreign minister Ricardo Patino telling media that “such a threat [by the U.K.] is improper of a democratic and civilized country.” He added: “Ecuador is not a British colony. The days of colonialism are over.”
The news channels later cited a U.K. government representative as saying that it is the country’s “legal duty” to extradite Assange to Sweden. Earlier this week, it emerged that Ecuador would likely do so.
Media here reported that three people were arrested in clashes with police outside the embassy late Thursday morning.
Some Hollywood representatives, such as Michael Moore and Oliver Stone, have called on Ecuador to grant Assange asylum. Meanwhile, studios have been rushing to make an Assange movie.
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