Assange to leave Ecuador embassy ‘soon'

Wikileaks founder has been living at the embassy building in the UK since June 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden

Julian Assange has announced that he will leave the Ecuadorian embassy in the UK 'soon'.

The Wikileaks founder sought refuge at the embassy in June 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning about allegations of sexual offences. He has been living at the Knightsbridge-based building ever since.

Assange did not say when he would depart. He told journalists that his health had suffered during his time at the embassy but denied that his decision was driven by reasons "reported by the Murdoch press".

Reports in UK newspapers over the weekend claimed that Assange has developed a heart defect and a chronic lung condition and needs urgent medical attention.

The Swedish authorities want to question Assange over allegations of sexual assaults on two women and issued a warrant for his arrest in November 2010.

If he leaves the Ecuadorian embassy, Assange faces immediate arrest and extradition to Sweden.

He fears that, from Sweden, he could be transferred to the US to face charges under the Espionage Act for releasing hundreds of thousands of classified government documents.

However Ecuador's foreign minister Ricardo Patino said that changes to extradition laws in the UK have created a "better climate" to reach a deal over Assange.

He said that he will try to meet UK foreign secretary Phillip Hammond to discuss the case "over the coming weeks."

Last month a Stockholm District Court judge ruled that the Swedish detention order against Assange will remain in force.

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