World Bulletin/News Desk
Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa on Saturday cast the Andean country's tensions with Britain over asylum for WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange as a menace to Latin America, warning the UK that it should think twice before trampling on the region's sovereignty.
Incensed by London's threat to break into the Ecuadorean embassy where the former hacker is taking refuge, Correa's government has accused Britain of "colonial" bullying and has formally granted the Australian asylum.
Britain says it will not allow the anti-secrecy campaigner from Australia to travel to South America because it is obliged to extradite him to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over rape and sexual assault allegations.
"They're out of touch. Who do they think they're dealing with? Can't they see that this is a dignified and sovereign government which will not kneel down before anyone?" Correa said in his weekly address on Saturday.
"What a mentality, eh? They have not realized that Latin America is free and sovereign and that we'll not put up with meddling, colonialism of any kind, at least in this country, small, but with a big heart."
Correa spoke as Ecuador was hosting a weekend gathering of foreign ministers from the ALBA group of leftist-led Latin American nations, and from the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR).
ALBA, which includes the governments of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and Raul Castro in Cuba, issued a strong statement in Caracas this week.
"We warn the United Kingdom ... about the grave consequences that carrying out their threats will have in relations with our countries," it said.
Support for Ecuador appears to be growing in the region.
"Britain ... is wrong. The threat is not only an aggression to Ecuador, it's against Bolivia, it's against South America, against the whole of Latin America," Bolivian President Evo Morales said on Friday.
Ecuadorean state media said other nations including Colombia and Argentina were backing Correa's position.
On Friday representatives of the hemispheric Organization of American States (OAS) called for a foreign ministers' meeting next week over the Assange affair.
Canada and the United States voted against holding the meeting.
"The central issue is not the right of asylum, it is the inviolability of embassies," OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza said after the vote.
Ecuador, an oil-producing nation of 14.5 million people that seldom finds itself in the global spotlight, is furious Britain said it could make use of an obscure measure to break into its embassy where Assange has been for more than two months.
The Ecuadorean government shares Assange's fears that he ultimately could be extradited to the United States, which is angry that his WikiLeaks website has leaked hundreds of thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic and military cables.
The leftist Correa, who has high popularity levels and is expected to run for re-election in February 2013, had developed some rapport with Assange during an online interview the WikiLeaks founder did with him this year.
Correa's stance has been largely cheered by Ecuadoreans, and there have been scattered protests at the British embassy.
"The whole world should back Ecuador for giving Assange asylum and because this country is the first one to promote freedom of expression," said Mary Valenzuela, a 39-year-old restaurant owner.
After WikiLeaks released its deluge of diplomatic cables that laid bare Washington's power-brokering across the globe, Assange became revered as a freedom-of-speech champion in many parts of Latin America, where there is strong tradition of criticizing the United States for meddling.
Leftist nations, and others, have been increasingly turning to new partners like China and Russia in recent years.
However, Europe and the United States are still important trade partners with the region, so Ecuador could suffer should the conflict escalate along commercial lines.
Business leaders and analysts told Reuters this week that long-time U.S. trade benefits for the Andean country are at risk due to the Assange saga.
The Italian navy has rescued more than 200 migrants off the coast of Libya, with the boat carrying 17 corpses.
The US is considering a preclearance centers to increase security through 10 different airports in Europe.
The central bank governor has said that he will step down if enough there is enough support for his successor.
Eight people have been killed and another eight have been wounded in a rocket attack in Libya
In a sign of a rise in Islamophobia in the US, hundreds of people have attended an anti-Islam rally outside a mosque in Phoenix just weeks after a similar event in Texas
Spanish government agrees to host permanent military presence of US for its Africa mission
Palestinian Football Association President Jibril Rajoub has defended his decision to abandon the bid to suspend Israel saying that he has not "suspended the resistance".
A second batch of live anthrax was sent by the US military
The Italian parliament has released the name of a candidate representing southern Italy's cocaine heartland, and is also a candidate for PM Renzi's party.
The US formally removed Cuba from "state sponsored terrorism" list.
Nigerian Finance Minister Akinwumi Adesina became president of the institution on Friday
More than 200 Eritrean refugees have been turned back by border police in the Italian Alps.
Protests have continued in Burundi against the Presidents third bid for Presidency
An ultra orthodox sect in Britain have banned women from driving. Children, whose mothers drive them to their religious school will also be refused entry to the school.
Nigeria's new President has vowed to fight Boko Haram and corruption.