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Originally published Wednesday, June 20, 2012 at 3:47 AM

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Ecuador says it will decide soon on Assange asylum

Ecuador says it expects to decide within Thursday on an asylum request by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

Associated Press

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Arrest him & throw him in prison. He's a whimpy weasel. If he's so sure about the... MORE
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LONDON —

Ecuador says it expects to decide within Thursday on an asylum request by WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

The country's deputy foreign minister, Marco Albuja, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that President Rafael Correa would make a decision within the day.

"The national government is considering its position and the president will give us his instructions tomorrow," Albuja said late Wednesday.

Staff at Ecuador's London embassy confirmed a decision was expected from Quito on Thursday.

Assange has spent a second night in the embassy, where he sought asylum on Tuesday. He has been fighting since 2010 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over alleged sexual assaults on two women. He denies the claims, and says the case against him is politically motivated.

His supporters say he fears charges in the United States for leaking hundreds of thousands of secret U.S. documents.

British officials say Assange is beyond their reach in the embassy, but say he will be arrested if he leaves for breaching his bail conditions.

The left-leaning Correa, who has sought to reduce U.S. influence in Latin America, has praised WikiLeaks for exposing U.S. secrets, and has offered Assange words of support.

Correa said Wednesday that Assange had made it clear in his letter requesting asylum that "he wants to continue his mission of free expression without limits, to reveal the truth, in a place of peace dedicated to truth and justice."

Some have questioned Ecuador's commitment to freedom of speech. Correa's government has been assailed by human rights and press freedom activists for using Ecuador's criminal libel law in sympathetic courts against journalists, including from the country's biggest newspaper, El Universo.

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