Ecuador president says no offer to WikiLeaks chief

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QUITO, Ecuador (AP) — Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa on Tuesday dismissed an offer of residency that a lower level official made to the embattled founder of the online whistle-blower WikiLeaks.

The offer by Deputy Foreign Minister Kintto Lucas on Monday “has not been approved by Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino — or the president,” Correa told reporters.

Patino already had indicated earlier in the day that the leftist government was backing away from providing refuge for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, saying it “will have to be studied from the legal and diplomatic perspective.”

Lucas had said Monday that Ecuador was open to giving Assange residence “without any kind of trouble and without any kind of conditions.”

The 39-year-old Australian, whose whereabouts are not publicly known, has incensed Washington and many other governments by releasing hundreds of sensitive diplomatic cables.

He had sought residency in Sweden. But a court there has ordered him detained for questioning on sexual assault allegations. Assange denies the allegations.

Interpol issued a “Red Notice” on Tuesday for Assange based on that arrest warrant. Such notices are not tantamount to international arrest warrants. It is up to individual states to determine whether to act upon them.

Attorneys for Assange filed an appeal of the arrest warrant with Sweden’s highest court Tuesday.

U.S. government officials, meanwhile, say they are studying whether Assange could be charged with espionage. Assange says he is a journalist, and U.S. officials have shied away from prosecuting reporters for publishing leaked secrets.