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Ecuador Grants WikiLeaks' Assange Citizenship

FILE - WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange stands on the balcony of the Ecuadorian embassy, prior to speaking, in London, May 19, 2017.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been living in asylum inside Ecuador's embassy in London for five years, was granted Ecuadorian citizenship, the country's foreign minister said Thursday.

The move was seen as an unsuccessful attempt to allow Assange to leave the embassy without facing arrest by British police. London denied Ecuador's request to grant Assange diplomatic status, which would give him safe passage out of the embassy.

"Ecuador is currently exploring other solutions in dialogue with the UK," Ecuador's foreign minister, Maria Fernanda Espinosa, told reporters Thursday.

"There are well-founded fears we have about possible risks to his life and integrity, not necessarily by the UK but by third party states," she added.

Assange has been living at the Ecuadorean Embassy in London since 2012 under virtual house arrest to avoid being detained in connection with a Swedish rape investigation, which began seven years ago.

Though Sweden dropped the case against him, the Australian-born former journalist and computer programmer remained at the Ecuadorean embassy. British police have said they will arrest him on a charge of jumping bail if he tries to leave.

Assange also faces a possible sealed U.S. indictment against him. The U.S. Justice Department has been investigating Assange since at least 2010, when WikiLeaks published thousands of stolen U.S. security files.