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Door open for talks, says Assange
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has said that the "door is open" for talks to break the deadlock over his campaign to avoid extradition to Sweden.
He made a rare public appearance on a balcony at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London to mark the six-month anniversary of his sudden arrival at the building.
He has since been granted political asylum by the Ecuador government but has remained inside the embassy. The Australian will be arrested if he steps outside as he has broken his bail conditions. He thanked his supporters, who stood in the street outside, some carrying lighted candles.
He said: "Six months ago I entered this building. It has become my home, my office and my refuge. Thanks to the principled stance of the Ecuadorian government and the support of its people, I am safe in this embassy and safe to speak from this embassy."
He said he had been sustained by the solidarity of his supporters and people around the world supporting WikiLeaks and freedom of the press. "While my freedom is limited, I am still able to work and communicate, unlike the 232 journalists who are in jail tonight."
Mr Assange is wanted for questioning in Sweden over allegations of sexual assault, which he denies. He fears being sent to the United States to be questioned over his whistle-blowing website. He said that the Pentagon claimed recently that the existence of WikiLeaks was an "ongoing crime".
The Australian continued: "While that remains the case and while my government will not defend the journalism and publishing of WikiLeaks, I must remain here. However, the door is open, and the door has always been open, for anyone who wishes to use standard procedures to speak to me or guarantee my safe passage."
TV crews from across the world filmed the speech. There was an added police presence outside the embassy.
A statement issued by the Ecuadorian ambassador said: "At a time of year when people come closer together, Ecuador reaffirms the solidarity that our country gave six months ago to a person who was being persecuted for thinking and expressing themsewlves freely.
"Now is a moment for reflection and togetherness. On behalf of my country, I reiterate our support for Julian Assange."