WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange given Ecuadorian citizenship

It came after the United Kingdom rejected a request that Assange be given diplomatic immunity so he could freely leave the embassy.

Ecuador has granted citizenship to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who sought refuge in the country's embassy in London over five years ago to avoid arrest.

Swedish prosecutors dropped their charges against Assange past year, but British police have said they are prepared to arrest him for breaching bail conditions.

Ecuador has confirmed it has granted citizenship to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. "The UK should not permit itself to be intimidated by the Trump administration's public threats to "take down" Mr Assange".

She told a Press conference in Quito that Ecuador had asked London to recognise Assange as a diplomat - which would give him safe passage out of the embassy without fear of arrest - but Britain had refused.

USA officials told the Times Wednesday that arresting Assange remains a priority, though did not confirm whether the government would request his extradition should he be arrested in the UK.

He was also wanted in Sweden for questioning over rape accusations but prosecutors there dropped the case past year.

Espinosa said that Ecuador could seek out a "third country or personality" to resolve the stand-off with Britain.

Ecuador has become increasingly embarrassed about Assange who has a habit of making pronouncements on subjects which are opposed to Ecuador's foreign policy.

Assange surrendered to British police in December 2010, a month after Sweden requested his extradition, and was held for 10 days before he was released on bail.

Assange posted a photograph of himself wearing a yellow Ecuadorean national soccer team jersey on Twitter on Wednesday.

Renata Avila of campaign group the Courage Foundation said: "Ecuador's decision to grant nationality to Julian Assange is a welcome step, but we're still a long way from resolving this situation". Swedish prosecutors dropped the charges a year ago.

"Assange's presence in the embassy has very high diplomatic and reputational costs for Ecuador", Crespo said. She said the decision to grant citizenship to Assange had been made after careful consideration of Ecuador's obligations under its Constitution and under global law. However, Moreno, with whom Correa has now had a spectacular falling-out, has proved a less enthusiastic ally of Assange.

Vanessa Coleman

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