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.
Book by former surgeon to South African statesman violates doctor-patient confidentiality, says Nelson Mandela's grandson
The walk-out comes as violent and sometimes deadly protests continue amid a political and economic crisis that has led to shortages of basic goods and soaring inflation.
Edgar Lungu expels ruling party members for insubordination, including one potential challenger for his seat
Israeli officials signalled they may be open to changing the measures at the Haram al-Sharif mosque compound, known to Jews as the Temple Mount, after the installation of metal detectors at entrances following an attack that killed two policemen stoked Palestinian anger.
In addition to the dead, there were 28 injured -- 20 of them severely -- who were being treated at seven local hospitals, San Antonio Police Chief William McManus and Fire Chief Charles Hood told reporters.
Israel reportedly arrests senior Hamas leaders during overnight raids in occupied West Bank
Algeria has refused to classify Hamas or Muslim Brotherhood as terrorist organizations
Hundreds gathered the protest held in front of Israeli Embassy in London
Turkish, Swedish men killed in earthquake on Greek island of Kos
Israeli TV claims metal detectors at Al-Aqsa gates to be replaced with handheld ones
EU asks Israel and Jordan to take an attempt in the Al-Aqsa Mosque to uphold the status quo
Fifty-seven people injured in clashes, 12 taken to hospital, says Palestinian Red Crescent
Speaking ahead of a meeting with Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah, the foreign minister of Oman, which has remained neutral in the dispute, Tillerson noted "positive movement" in talks since he visited the region ten days ago.
Catalonia's pro-independence regional government plans to hold a secession vote in the wealthy northeastern region on October 1, in defiance of Spain's central government in Madrid which has repeatedly said such a vote would violate the constitution.