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Ecuador grants political asylum to WikiLeaks founder Assange ahead of extradition, UK vows to fight

Officials in Ecuador have granted political asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Assange took refuge at London's Ecuadorean embassy following the loss of his second UK extradition appeal in June. The WikiLeaks founder has been accused of rape and sexual assault and was on the brink of being sent to Sweden to face charges.

Assange called the decision "a significant victory," and thanked Ecuadorian embassy staff.

"The government of Ecuador is confident that the British government will know how to answer," Ecuadorean foreign minister Ricardo Patiño said Thursday.

Britain did know how to answer, just not with the response Ecuador was hoping to hear.

The UK has vowed to arrest Assange as soon as he leaves the embassy, insisting that Patiño's decision has no effect on the UK's legal obligation to extradite Assange to Sweden, BBC said. The country, in fact, could invoke the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act 1987 to strip the embassy of diplomatic status, allowing for police to enter the building and arrest Assange, according to the BBC.

In response, Ecuador's minister called the UK's tactics an "explicit type of blackmail," and said that they "can't allow spokespeople from the UK to gleefully say they have been honest when they have threatened us in such a way," BBC reported.

The minister believes that Assange's fears of political persecution are "legitimate," and is concerned that Assange could face obstacles during Sweden's judicial process. Patiño has asked for confirmation that once the proceedings are through, Assange, originally from Australia, will not then be extradited to America.

"Sadly, and despite our repeated attempts, the UK at no moment accepted to showed any willingness to negotiate on that issue," he said Thursday.

The US, as well, cannot offer any guarantees of its intention regarding legal processes against Assange and other WikiLeaks members, Patiño said.

In November, Ecuador offered Assange, and his confidential information, a home.

"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," deputy foreign minister Kintto Lucas said last fall.

The invitation came just days after WikiLeaks dumped almost 250,000 diplomatic documents – one of the largest releases in WikiLeaks history.