WikiLeaks' Julian Assange to Leave Ecuador Embassy 'Soon'

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WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has spent over two years inside Ecuador's London embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden, said on Monday he planned to leave the building "soon," but his spokesman said that could only happen if Britain let him.

Britain has repeatedly said it won't back down, that its laws must be followed, and that Assange should be extradited to Sweden to face allegations of sexual assault and rape, which he denies. Assange would be arrested if he exited the building because he has breached his British bail terms.

Assange's comments briefly raised the possibility of him leaving the embassy, somewhere he has been holed up since June 2012. But his spokesman later told reporters that he could only do so if the British government "calls off the siege outside," Assange had no intention of handing himself over to the police, the spokesman said.

The 43-year-old Australian says he fears that if Britain extradited him to Sweden he would then be extradited to the United States where he could be tried for one of the largest information leaks in U.S. history.

"I am leaving the embassy soon ... but perhaps not for the reasons that Murdoch press and Sky news are saying at the moment," Assange told reporters at the embassy in central London, before refusing to clarify his comments.

Britain's Sky News, part owned by Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox, had earlier reported that Assange was considering leaving the embassy due to deteriorating health and that he was intending on turning himself into U.K. police.

'A difficult and costly situation' 

WikiLeaks began releasing thousands of confidential U.S. documents on the Internet in 2010. That embarrassed the United States, and some critics say it put national security and people's lives at risk.

Ecuador later granted Assange political asylum. But he was unable to leave Britain and has ended up living in the embassy's cramped quarters in central London. 

Ecuador's Patino said he would try to hold talks with his British counterpart to resolve the case. Recent changes to British extradition laws may mean Assange would not be facing extradition if his case had just started. 

Britain's Foreign Office said it remained as committed as ever to reaching a diplomatic solution to the problem, but reiterated that Assange still needed to be extradited. 

"As ever we look to Ecuador to help bring this difficult, and costly, situation to an end," a spokeswoman said. 

The Assange issue has put Britain and Ecuador at odds, with London angered by the decision of Ecuador's socialist President Rafael Correa to grant him asylum and Quito unhappy at the British refusal to allow him safe passage. 

Asked about his health, Assange said anyone would be affected by spending two years in a building with no outside areas or direct sunlight, a complaint he has made several times before. 

Ecuador's Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino, left, shakes hands with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange after a press conference inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, Monday Aug. 18, 2014.Credit: AP

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