Nations call for talks over Assange

Foreign ministers from across South America have called for dialogue between the UK and Ecuador to resolve the row over WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

The ministers issued a statement of support for Ecuador following the meeting of the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) in the country.

Mr Assange has been seeking refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London for two months. The Australian made his first public appearance since he entered the building on Saturday, calling on Washington to "renounce its witch-hunt" against his organisation.

In the statement, released after the 20-minute meeting, the ministers "condemned the threat of the use of force between states" and reiterated "the right of states to concede asylum". They urged both nations to follow the "path of dialogue and direct negotiations" to reach a solution.

Mr Assange, who is wanted in Sweden for questioning on sexual assault allegations, thanked Ecuador for taking a "stand for justice" in giving him political asylum when he spoke from the embassy's balcony.

He denies the allegations and fears being transferred to America if he travels to contest them. He enraged the US government in 2010 when WikiLeaks published tranches of secret US diplomatic cables.

Unasur's meeting was held a day after Cuba, Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Argentina endorsed Ecuador's asylum decision. Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Chile are among Latin American nations that have not taken a stand.

Speaking on Saturday, Mr Assange thanked Ecuador and other helpful South American nations and supporters around the world, plus his family, including his children "who have been denied their father". He said: "Forgive me, we will be reunited soon."

Foreign Secretary William Hague has made it clear Mr Assange will not be allowed safe passage out of the UK and Downing Street confirmed that, but said the Government was still trying to find a diplomatic solution.

"Under our law, having exhausted all the options of appeal, we are obliged to extradite him to Sweden. It is our intention to carry out that obligation," the Prime Minister's official spokesman said. "We will continue talking to the Ecuadorian government and others to try to find a diplomatic solution."