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Ecuador Seeks Arrangement for Assange to Leave Embassy

The Wall Street Journal. logo The Wall Street Journal. 1/10/2018 Ryan Dube

Ecuador said Tuesday that it was looking for a way for Julian Assange to leave the Andean country’s embassy in London, where the WikiLeaks founder has lived since 2012 when he was granted political asylum.

Foreign Relations Minister María Fernanda Espinosa said in comments reported by state media that it was “unsustainable” for Mr. Assange to stay at the embassy indefinitely. Ms. Espinosa said Ecuadorean officials were hoping to reach an agreement with the U.K. that would allow Mr. Assange to leave.

“No person can live in those conditions forever,” Ms. Espinosa said. “There won’t be any solution without international cooperation and without the cooperation of the United Kingdom.”

Ms. Espinosa added that Ecuador wasn’t giving up on its commitment to protect Mr. Assange. “We’ll continue protecting Julian Assange while his physical and psychological integrity are in danger,” she said.

a man standing in front of a mirror posing for the camera © Frank Augstein/Associated Press

Mr. Assange entered the embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden over sexual-assault allegations that he denies. The Swedish investigation has ended, but he remains in the embassy out of fear that U.S. authorities would seek his extradition to face charges for leaking thousands of classified government documents in 2006 that detailed the inner workings of U.S. foreign policy.

Mr. Assange was provided asylum by Ecuador’s then-president, Rafael Correa, a vocal critic of the U.S. and a close ally of Venezuela’s late president Hugo Chávez.

Ecuador has had a rocky relationship with Mr. Assange. In 2016, Ecuador temporarily cutoff his internet access after concerns that Mr. Assange was meddling in the U.S. presidential election. WikiLeaks published thousands of emails detailing the internal deliberations of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

Ecuador President Lenin Moreno said soon after taking office last May that Mr. Assange could remain at the embassy, but that he would have to stop interfering in politics of other nations. Since then, Mr. Moreno, a former vice president of Mr. Correa, has broken with his predecessor on several issues as he seeks better relations with the business community and opposition. Mr. Correa has accused Mr. Moreno of betrayal.

Mr. Moreno is looking to roll back a number of Mr. Correa’s policies in a referendum next month, including reinstating term limits that could prevent the former president from returning to power.

Write to Ryan Dube at ryan.dube@wsj.com

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