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Correa says Assange showdown ‘could have been avoided’
« on: October 29, 2012, 11:40:17 AM »
Correa says Assange showdown ‘could have been avoided’

Last Update: Monday29/10/2012October, 2012

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa said on Saturday he stands by his decision to grant asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since June.
“Things are tough. From the start this situation could have been avoided, but there lacked the will for that,” Correa said in an interview conducted in Chilean capital Santiago.
Assange, 41, is wanted in Sweden on allegations of rape and sexual assault. He exhausted all legal avenues to prevent his extradition from Britain before seeking refuge at the Ecuadorian embassy.
He remains in legal limbo: Ecuador has granted him asylum, but British police have said they will arrest him as soon as he leaves the embassy.
Assange is fighting the extradition because he says he fears he could then be handed over to the US, where he worries he could face charges and possible execution for the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks’ role in releasing hundreds of classified State Department documents starting in 2010.
The US has not yet filed charges against Assange, but US soldier Bradley Manning is facing a military trial for allegedly handing over the documents to WikiLeaks.
“The Swedish prosecutor always had the option to question Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian embassy in London,” Correa said.
Left-wing populist Correa said Ecuador remains firm on the issue and “will not give up its sovereignty.” He insisted that there are options, including “guaranteeing that there will be no extradition to a third country so that Julian Assange can testify in Sweden.”
“Ecuador will do what it has to do without asking anyone for permission,” Correa said.
He admitted that “the most difficult thing” would be for Britain to grant Assange safe passage out of its territory.
He complained of Sweden’s attitude in the case, and pointed to history as he demanded reciprocity.
“How many Latin Americans has Sweden granted asylum to?” he asked.
Correa was referring to the thousands of Latin Americans, particularly from Argentina, Uruguay and Chile, who found a safe haven in the Scandinavian nation as they fled the dictatorships in their countries in the 1970s and 1980s.
In the interview with DPA, Correa also spoke of the start earlier this month of peace talks between Ecuador’s neighbour Colombia and the leftist rebel group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).
“This is great news for Latin America. It is one of the best news we have had in recent decades,” he said.
Correa noted the talks will not be easy, but he stressed that Latin America as a whole will back Colombia in its peace efforts.
“They know they can count on us,” he said.
Ecuador’s relations with Colombian have not always been easy, and they reached a low in March 2008, when Colombian forces killed Luis Edgar Devia, a FARC commander known by the alias “Raul Reyes,” and 16 other rebels in a raid on a FARC camp on Ecuadorian soil.
Correa, who has been in office since 2007, did not confirm whether he plans to seek re-election next year, although he has an approval rating of more than 60% in opinion polls.
He recalled that before he took office Ecuador had “seven presidents in 10 years and the last three elected governments did not complete their terms.”
His government, Correa said, has reduced inequality, improved infrastructure, including energy resources, and attained other important goals in the Andean country, and the Ecuadorian people appreciate that.