Britain is considering holding talks with Ecuador over the future of Julian Assange, the Foreign Office said on Monday, in the first sign of a possible solution to the year-long diplomatic standoff over the Wikileaks founder.
Assange, 41, took refuge in Ecuador's tiny embassy in London last June to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over sex assault and rape allegations. He denies the allegations.
A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office said it was considering a request made by Ecuador's foreign minister Ricardo Patino to meet Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague when Patino visits London later this month.
"We're considering that request. We hope the visit will contribute to our joint commitment to finding a diplomatic solution to this issue," the spokeswoman said.
On Tuesday. Patino accused Britain of trampling on the human rights of Assange by refusing to allow him to travel to Ecuador.
The request comes as Bradley Manning, the American soldier charged with "aiding the enemy" by providing WikiLeaks with more than 700,000 classified documents, goes on trial in the United States later on Monday.
Assange said last year he expected to wait six months to a year for a deal that would allow him to leave the embassy, after Ecuador's socialist president, Rafael Correa, angered Britain by granting him asylum.
Ecuador argues that Assange's deportation to Sweden is part of a scheme by the U.S. government to have the former computer hacker extradited to American soil so that he too can face charges over WikiLeaks' release of the U.S. documents.
U.S. and European government sources say the United States has issued no criminal charges against him, nor launched any attempts to extradite him.
Credit: Reuters News Service, http://www.reuters.com
Piracy and theft increase on north coast
Ecuador’s national police and navy report that open ocean piracy is increasing along the Ecuadorian coast near Colombia. The government says that some of the stolen boats are destined for the drug trade and announced a plan to install GPS chips in fishing boats.
So far in 2013, there have been 73 cases of theft, either of boat motors or entire seacraft, in the waters between Esmeraldas and the Colombian border. Only 96 cases were reported in all of 2012.
Piracy has led to two deaths in 2013: Enrique Rangel died during an attack on Jan. 8, 80 nautical miles off the coast of Esmeraldas. And César Góngora Colorado was shot and killed in the Esmeraldas harbour on April 7. Three suspects have been arrested in the Esmeraldas case, says the local chief of police.
The rising levels of offshore crime has led to protests by fishers and even the sale of some ships by owners who do not want to take the risk the dangers of working in the trade.
One fisherman who was attacked by pirates last December says that theives took off with his two outboard motors, worth about $6,000 and $8,000. A fiberglass boat costs about $14,000.
A leader in the Esmeraldas fishers collective says that the motors that are taken by pirates disappear, and probably end up in Colombia along with the GPS systems, fishing gear and navigation instruments that are also stolen.
In Esmeraldas, about 2,000 fishermen work on 300 boats. catching tuna, corvina, and dorado.
Evolution conference convenes in Galapagos
Several of the world’s top evolutionary scientists are meeting this week in the Galapagos Islands to discuss developments in evolution research.
The the Third World Development Summit, organized by the Universidad de San Francisco de Quito, will include Nobel Prize laureate Ada Yonath, author Antonio Lazcano and Avenis Prize winner Fernando Baquero.
According to Carlos Montúfar, San Francisco University president, Ecuador has been important in two second major area of scientific research, the development of evolutionary theory and the scientific legacy of Alexander von Humboldt.
Montúfar added: "The Galapagos Islands are are great place to hold the conference. They are a living laboratory, which should be used for scientific study and for general welfare of the planet.”
Photo caption: Julian Assange