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'Assange asylum wouldn't change anything'

Britain could revoke the diplomatic status of Ecuador’s embassy.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange arrives at the Supreme Court in central London, on February 1, 2012, in the latest stage of his lengthy battle against extradition to Sweden to face rape allegations. Picture: AFP

LONDON - Britain told Ecuador on Thursday that giving Julian Assange asylum would not change a thing and that it might still revoke the diplomatic status of Quito's embassy in London to allow the extradition of the WikiLeaks founder.

The Ecuadorean government, which said it would announce its decision on Assange's asylum request on Thursday at 7 a.m. said any attempt to remove the diplomatic status of its embassy would be considered a "hostile and intolerable act".

"It is too early to say when or if Britain will revoke the Ecuadorean embassy's diplomatic status," a Foreign Office spokesman said by telephone.

"Giving asylum doesn't fundamentally change anything," the spokesman said, adding that Britain had a legal duty to extradite Assange to Sweden where he is wanted to stand trial for rape.

Quito bristled at the threat.

"We want to be very clear; we're not a British colony. The colonial times are over," Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said in an angry statement after a meeting with President Rafael Correa.

"The move announced in the official British statement, if it happens, would be interpreted by Ecuador as an unfriendly, hostile and intolerable act, as well as an attack on our sovereignty, which would force us to respond in the strongest diplomatic way," Patino told reporters.

Ecuador, whose government is part of a left-leaning bloc of nations in South America, called for meetings of regional foreign ministers and the hemispheric Organization of American States to rally support in its complaint against Britain.