Ecuador Demands Britain Grant Assange 'Safe Passage'

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Ecuador urged Britain Friday to grant WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange safe passage to its territory after Sweden dropped a warrant that drove him to take refuge in Ecuador's London embassy.

The South American country "asks the United Kingdom authorities to grant safe passage to allow the Australian citizen (Assange) to benefit from his asylum in Ecuador," Foreign Minister Guillaume Long told a news conference in Quito.

"We say to the United Kingdom: that is enough, no more delays. It has been seven years of arbitrary detention without charges. The threat of jail and harassment against Julian Assange must end."

Swedish prosecutors earlier announced they had dropped their rape probe against Assange, 45.

Yet British police said they would still arrest him if he tried to leave the embassy.

They said he had breached the terms of his bail by refusing to turn himself in when an arrest warrant was issued in 2012.

The Australian founder of the WikiLeaks whistleblowing website -- which leaked hundreds of thousands of secret US military and diplomatic documents in 2010 -- has always denied the rape allegations.

Assange feared that if he gave himself up to the Swedish authorities, he would be extradited to the United States and put on trial for the intelligence leaks.

Under leftist President Rafael Correa, Ecuador granted Assange asylum in its London embassy in 2012.

"Ecuador conceded him asylum for fear of political persecution and to safeguard the human rights and physical integrity of Mr Assange," Long said.

Swedish prosecutors questioned Assange in the embassy in November.

"Ecuador regrets that it took Swedish Prosecutor more than four years to carry out this interview," Long wrote earlier on Twitter.

"This was a wholly unnecessary delay."