British police on Monday said they will no longer stand guard outside London’s Ecuadorean embassy where WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange took refuge in 2012, but will strengthen a “covert plan” to prevent his departure. Britain’s Foreign Office later confirmed that it had summoned the Ecuadorean ambassador to “register once again our deep frustration at the protracted delay” in extraditing Assange to Sweden to face questions over a rape allegation. The Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) said Monday that it had “today… withdrawn the physical presence of officers from outside the embassy. “The operation to arrest Julian Assange does however continue and should he leave the embassy the MPS will make every effort to arrest him. Swedish prosecutors want to question Assange about a rape claim, which carries a 10-year statute of limitations that expires in 2020. Assange, who faces arrest if he tries to leave the embassy, denies the allegation and insists the sexual encounter was consensual. The Foreign Office said Monday that the head of the diplomatic service, Simon McDonald, had summoned Ecuadorean Ambassador Carlos Abad Ortiz to insist on a resolution to the impasse. “The UK has been absolutely clear since June 2012 that we have a legal obligation to extradite Assange to Sweden,” said the ministry statement. “That obligation remains today,” it added. The 24-hour guard outside the embassy in central London has cost British taxpayers more than £10 million ($15.4 million, 13.5 million euros), the source of much criticism in austerity-hit Britain.
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