WikiLeaks Assange offered sanctuary by Ecuador

Ecuador has offered WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange residency.

The country's Deputy Foreign Minister, Kintto Lucas, said that the government of Ecuador was "very concerned" by evidence in the whistle-blowing site's recent 'Cablegate' leak linking US diplomats with spying on friendly governments.

WikiLeaks claims to have more than 1,600 cables originating from the US embassy in the country's capital, Quito. The contents of the secret communications have not yet been made public.

Ecuador appealed to Assange for further information in a press statement released late on Monday.

Earlier this year, the Australian activist was refused residency in Sweden, where some of WikiLeaks' servers are based, after facing allegations of rape and molestation in the country.

In a recent interview, Assange told a radio presenter in Switzerland that he was considering an application for asylum there.

Announcing Ecuador's offer, minister Lucas said:

"We are open to giving him residency in Ecuador, without any problem and without any conditions.

"We are going to try and invite him to Ecuador to freely present, not only via the internet, but also through different public forums, the information and documentation that he has.

"We think it would be important not only to converse with him but also to listen to him," Lucas added.

Lucas denied that Ecuador's offer of residency to the WikiLeaks founder would affect relations between the country's left-leaning government and the USA.

Elsewhere in South America, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez praised WikiLeaks, labelled staff at the US State Department "delinquents" and calling upon Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to resign.

Assange has made no formal statement regarding Ecuador's offer as yet - but it's likely that he will want to look closely at the ramifications of any such agreement.

Ecuador has an extradition treaty with the United States, which includes provision for the yielding up of persons accused of or aiding and abetting in theft, which could include the theft of documents - though it specifically precludes the use of the treaty for "crimes or offenses of a political character".