LONDON - Ecuador says it is giving serious consideration to giving Julian Assange political asylum, after the founder of the WikiLeaks website made the request at the country's embassy in London. British authorities say they will arrest Assange if he leaves the embassy.
Julian Assange walked into the Ecuadorian Embassy on Tuesday and has been staying there ever since. He spoke to a radio station in his native Australia from the embassy.
"Ecuador back in 2010 suggested that perhaps I should come to Ecuador and be given residency, so they are sympathetic over a long period of time so we hope that the asylum application will be viewed favorably," he said.
The Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa said his government was considering the asylum application.
"We'll take the time that is necessary because we're dealing with a very serious topic that we take on with absolute responsibility. However, in the meantime, Mr. Assange is in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London and under the protection of the Ecuadorian state," he said.
Julian Assange founded the whistle-blowing website WikiLeaks, which published confidential files on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and thousands of U.S. cables sent between overseas diplomats and Washington.
Two Wikileaks volunteers in Sweden claim he attacked them in 2010. No charges have been filed. Assange claims the sex was consensual.
Last week Britain's Supreme Court dismissed his attempt to reopen his extradition appeal. Assange claims the allegations are politically motivated and fears being extradited to the U.S.
His supporters have followed him throughout his legal battles and have now set up camp outside the embassy.
His move to request asylum appears to have caused some surprise. Among his supporters is Ben Griffin, a former soldier in the British Army.
"We found out that Julian was seeking asylum here at the Ecuadorian Embassy and we are supporting him through that process," he said. "We understand, we acknowledge, we know that he has some very powerful enemies so we are supporting him in this action."
British police say Julian Assange has breached his bail conditions by staying at the embassy. If his bid for asylum fails he faces arrest and some of his high profile friends who put up bail money could face big losses.
If Ecuador does give asylum to Julian Assange, analysts say it is likely to cause a serious rift in diplomatic relations between Britain and Ecuador.