The government of Ecuador will announce it's decision on the asylum request of controversial WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is wanted on sexual assault charges in Sweden.
Assange is holed up inside London's Ecuadoran embassy, safely beyond the reach of British cops, but he acknowledged Thursday that he doesn't know whether the South American country will approve his plea for political asylum.
Assange told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio in an interview that he had mounted his bizarre request for political asylum in Ecuador because his native Australia had made an "effective declaration of abandonment" by refusing to intervene in his planned extradition from Britain to Sweden.
"We had heard that the Ecuadoreans were sympathetic in relation to my struggles and the struggles of the organization with the United States," Assange told ABC, explaining his actions in his first public comment since launching his asylum bid.
However, Assange acknowledged there was no guarantee that his plea would be successful, and indicated he didn't know when a decision on his case would be made.
Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa told reporters in Quito on Thursday night that careful deliberations and consultations with other nations were involved.
"We are going to have to discuss with and seek the opinions of other countries. We don't wish to offend anyone, least of all a country we hold in such deep regard as the United Kingdom," Correa said after arriving from a climate summit in Brazil.
"Once a decision is made we can talk about safe passage and such things," he added.
British authorities say they are poised to pounce the moment Assange steps out of Ecuador's London embassy.
He would be arrested, they say, for breaching the terms of his bail, which include an overnight curfew at a registered address.
A divisive figure with a knack for garnering attention, Assange has been fighting since 2010 to avoid extradition from Britain 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.
Assange said that even if Ecuador rejected this plea, he would have helped to draw attention to what he insists are attempts in the United States to draw up charges against him for leaking hundreds of thousands of secret U.S. documents via the secret-spilling WikiLeaks website.
"We are in a position to draw attention to what is happening. The Department of Justice in the United States has been playing a little game, and that little game is that they refuse to confirm or deny the existence of a grand jury," Assange said. "We are hoping what I am doing now will draw attention to the underlying issues."
A U.S. soldier, Pfc. Bradley Manning, a 24-year-old Crescent, Oklahoma, native, has been charged with aiding the enemy by passing the secret files to WikiLeaks and is awaiting trial.
A Virginia grand jury is studying evidence that might link Assange to Manning, but no action has yet been taken. The grand jury has been investigating for more than year and could continue for months or even years longer. Witnesses have been called, though the identities of most are unknown.
Assange's dramatic asylum bid took many of his supporters — and even his lawyers — by surprise. Samuelson said he had not been informed about Assange's plans until the 40-year-old Australian had already entered the embassy.
The lawyer said Assange was camping out "in an office that has been prepared with overnight sleeping facilities."
"I don't get the feeling that they (embassy staff) are in a hurry to get rid of him. He's welcome there," said Samuelson, who met with Assange Wednesday.
Hrafnsson said Assange was "in good spirits" and prepared to wait things out in the embassy. "He will stay until this matter is settled," Hrafnsson said. "I assume that if asylum is not granted, he will leave."
Even if Assange is granted asylum, it is unclear how he could leave the embassy without being arrested by British police. Legal experts say he would forfeit the embassy's protection the moment he steps out of the door.
Assange has exhausted legal appeals against extradition in Britain, but has until June 28 to apply to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France.
The left-leaning Correa, who has sought to reduce U.S. influence in Latin America, has praised WikiLeaks for exposing U.S. secrets and 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 some from the country's biggest newspaper, El Universo.