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Ecuador president: I've not yet decided on asylum for Wikileaks' Julian Assange

Martin Alipaz / EPA file

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, left, and Ecuador's President Rafael Correa, right.

Updated at 6:55 p.m ET: Ecuador's president Rafael Correa on Twitter Tuesday denied reports in the British media that he has decided to offer Wikileaks founder Julian Assange asylum.

"Rumors about asylum for Assange are false," Correa tweeted in Spanish hours after the Guardian newspaper reported the president had already made up his mind. He said in the tweet he was awaiting a report from the Foreign Ministry.

Earlier this week, Correa had said he hoped to announce a decision on Wednesday.

An offer may amount to little more than a symbolic gesture since Assange, holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy since June 19, has no guarantee that he could escape United Kingdom arrest and fly to the capital, Quito.

Assange, 41, has been trying to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning on sex-crime allegations.

The former computer hacker, who enraged Washington in 2010 when his WikiLeaks website published thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic cables, says he fears he could be sent to the United States, where he believes his life would be at risk.

Assange is in breach of his British bail conditions and the British police have said he is liable to arrest if he steps out of the embassy, which is located in London's ritzy Knightsbridge area, miles away from any airport, Reuters reported.

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It appears unlikely that the British government would give Assange safe passage to an airport as that would mean going against the Swedish arrest warrant and a ruling by Britain's own Supreme Court that the warrant was valid, Reuters reported.

Earlier Tuesday, an official in Quito, who is familiar with the government discussions, told the Guardian, "Ecuador will grant asylum to Julian Assange."

A WikiLeaks spokesperson, Kristinn Hrafnsson, could not confirm the asylum offer, Reuters reported.

"I cannot confirm. I just spoke to him (Assange) and he said he had not been notified either," Hrafnsson said.

Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said that Assange's grounds to request political asylum are that he thinks he is being politically prosecuted and that he Sweden will extradite him to the United States.

Patino, who has led Ecuador's analysis of the case, told Reuters the Andean country was also looking at how the 41-year-old Australian might travel to Ecuador if he is granted asylum.

"Beyond the international treaties, the right to asylum etc, and the autonomy or sovereignty the national government has to take a decision of this nature, we have to look at what will happen next," he said before an event in the highland city of Ambato.

"It's not only about whether to grant the asylum, because for Mr. Assange to leave England he should have a safe pass from the British (government). Will that be possible? That's an issue we have to take into account."

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Correa, a self-declared enemy of "corrupt" media and U.S. "imperialism", said he sympathizes with Assange but also feels respect for the British legalsystem and for international law.

Assangehasnot been charged with any offense in Sweden or in the United States. Swedish prosecutors want to question him about allegations of rape and sexual assault made by two WikiLeaks supporters in 2010. Assangesays he had consensual sex with the women.

This article includes reporting by Reuters.

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