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Julian Assange to leave Ecuadorian embassy 'soon'

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Julian Assange to leave Ecuadorian embassy 'soon'

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says he will leave the Ecuadorian embassy in London 'soon', without providing further details.

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London: Julian Assange has told a press conference in London that he will leave the Ecuadorian embassy that has been his home for the past two years soon - but not imminently.

He did not specify any time line for his departure from the embassy other than to say it will be not be for the reasons that "the Murdoch press and Sky News" believe.

In a long press conference that mainly reiterated his legal position as he sees it, Assange dropped an oblique hint that he would be leaving the embassy but did not reply to a request to be clearer. 

Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange taking part in a live video conference in Mexico City earlier this month.

Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange taking part in a live video conference in Mexico City earlier this month. Photo: Ronaldo Schemidt

Assange noted that a "highly decorated journalist in Iceland" had confirmed that he was leaving the embassy "soon", but not for the reasons believed, an apparent reference to his health.

But afterwards WikiLeak’s spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson made clear the rumours of Mr Assange’s imminent departure weren’t true.

“The world is not coming to an end,” he told reporters inside the embassy.

Julian Assange (right) speaks at a press conference with Ricardo Patino, Ecuador's Foreign Minister, in the Ecuadorian embassy in London on Monday.

Julian Assange (right) speaks at a press conference with Ricardo Patino, Ecuador's Foreign Minister, in the Ecuadorian embassy in London on Monday.

“The plan (as always) is to leave as soon as the UK government decides to honour its obligations in relation to international agreements.”

Alongside Assange during his press conference was the Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino, who said that in the coming weeks Ecuador was looking to set up meetings with the British Foreign Secretary, because recent law reforms had created a "better climate for agreement" on Assange's case. 

However, it was unclear if this meant Assange walking free from the embassy, or being shuttled to Ecuador under diplomatic protection. 

Mr Patino reaffirmed that Ecuador would continue to offer Assange its diplomatic protection. He said it was time to free Julian Assange and time for his human rights to be finally respected.

The Foreign Minister confirmed that Ecuador would uphold Assange's status as a political asylee, and continue to offer him protection while it sought more talks with the British and Swedish governments.

"Two years is simply too long, it's time to free Julian Assange," he said.

The meandering press conference offered more questions than it answered for the 20 reporters invited into the embassy. Assange would not elaborate on any timeline for his departure. He insisted that the US government dropped its grand jury investigation and reminded those gathered that he had not been charged of any crime yet he had been effectively detained for four years against his will.

If he was to walk out he would likely be arrested and extradited to Sweden where he faces an investigation into sexual assault allegations. 

He may also face repercussions from skipping police bail by entering the embassy in June 2012.

Police had gathered outside the embassy on Monday amid speculation the Wikileaks founder was planning to leave. However, in a long press conference, Assange gave no indication of when he would leave the embassy, other than to say "soon". 

Assange claims he would then be at risk of being sent to the United States where a warrant awaits over his work with WikiLeaks exposing classified diplomatic and military information. 

It has been reported that his worsening health is behind his change of heart. 

Assange's state of health was vividly described by a Mail on Sunday interviewer on the weekend - who listed the translucent pale skin, persistent cough and dark rings under his eyes. 

The Mail reported: "Assange is, according to a WikiLeaks source, suffering from the potentially life-threatening heart condition arrhythmia and has a chronic lung complaint and dangerously high blood pressure.  A severe shortage of Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, is impacting on his general health – in the long term, it can trigger asthma and diabetes, weaken bones and increase the risk of dementia."

The British Foreign Office had turned down Ecuador's request to take him to hospital under diplomatic protection, the Mail said.

Whether or not Assange is walking out today, he certainly managed to get media attention... pic.twitter.com/lQEXJkHSTl

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