Ecuador says it wants to grant asylum to Julian Assange, but the British government has refused to guarantee safe passage for the WikiLeaks founder.
Mr Assange has been holed up in the embassy for weeks as Ecuadorian officials assess his asylum application.
The WikiLeaks founder fled to the Ecuadorian embassy in London weeks ago after exhausting all avenues of appeal in his fight against extradition to Sweden on sexual assault charges.
British authorities have reportedly threatened to storm the Ecuadorian embassy in London if Mr Assange is granted asylum.
In a press conference this morning, Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said the country wanted to grant asylum, but could not do so until his safety was guaranteed.
"Today we've received a threat by the United Kingdom, a clear and written threat that they could storm our embassy in London if Ecuador refuses to hand in Julian Assange," he said.
Australian Attorney-General Nicola Roxon said this morning the matter is out of her hands. "Our role in this is only a diplomatic one, to make sure Assange has support that he needs for consular issues. It's not something we have any legal role that we can play," she told Sunrise.
Mr Assange fears that extradition to Sweden will be the first step in a process to get him to the United States to face unknown charges related to the WikiLeaks website.
He's won asylum in Ecuador, but Julian Assange's hopes of getting there increasingly appear reliant on a political solution.
The decision by the South American nation to identify the WikiLeaks founder as a refugee is a symbolic boost for Mr Assange, but legal experts say that does little to help him avoid extradition to Sweden on sexual assault allegations.
Instead, with Britain saying it won't grant the silver-haired Australian, 41, safe passage out of the country, the case has done much to drag the two nations into an international face-off.
In response to calls for the Australian government to intervene, federal Attorney-General Nicola Roxon says the matter is between Mr Assange, Britain and Ecuador. Foreign Minister Bob Carr agrees.
"Australia's role remains unchanged," Senator Carr said through a spokesman.
The Ecuadorian government was quick to criticise Canberra, noting that "Mr Assange is without the due protection and help that he should receive from any state of which he is a citizen".
In granting Mr Assange diplomatic asylum, Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino on Thursday said his country was taking action because Mr Assange faced a serious threat of unjust prosecution at the hands of US officials.
That was a nod to the fears expressed by Mr Assange and others that the Swedish sex case is merely the opening gambit in a Washington-orchestrated plot to make him stand trial in the United States - something disputed by both Swedish authorities and the women involved.
US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said she did not accept Mr Assange's claim, or Ecuador's acceptance of it, that he could potentially face persecution in the US.
"With regard to the charge that the US was intent on persecuting him, I reject that completely," she said.
Interpol, the France-based international police agency, says Mr Assange remains on its most-wanted list.
Mr Patino said he tried to secure guarantees from the Americans, the British and the Swedes that Mr Assange would not be extradited to the US, but was rebuffed by all three.
If Mr Assange were extradited to the US "he would not have a fair trial, could be judged by special or military courts, and it's not implausible that cruel and degrading treatment could be applied, that he could be condemned to life in prison, or the death penalty", Mr Patino said.
Inside the central London embassy, where he has been holed up since June 19, Mr Assange was grateful for Ecuador's support, but warned his challenges were not at an end.
"It is a significant victory for myself, and my people. Things will probably get more stressful now," he told embassy staff.
"It was not Britain or my home country, Australia, that stood up to protect me from persecution, but a courageous, independent Latin American nation."
Learning of her son's asylum approval at home in Brisbane, Christine Assange said it was too soon to know what his next move would be.
Supporters who have visited Mr Assange say he is living inside a tiny office at Ecuador's embassy, a small apartment of five or six rooms inside a larger building which also houses Colombia's embassy.
He has a bed, access to a phone and a connection to the internet. "It's not quite the Hilton," said one of his visitors, Gavin MacFadyen.
Spanish rights lawyer Baltasar Garzon, who is helping Mr Assange's defence, raised the possibility of taking the matter before the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
Anti-WikiLeaks hackers claim responsibility for DDoS attack on RT website
The RT.com website went down for hours worldwide on Friday after a massive DDoS attack, with the hacker group calling itself AntiLeaks claiming responsibility.
“Yes. We are behind the DDoS attack on #RT_com,” AntiLeaks wrote on Twitter.
AntiLeaks registered a Twitter account on August 4, when it claimed responsibility for taking down the WikiLeaks site.
“Tango down wikileaks.org #Wikileaks #Cowards” AntiLeaks boasted on Twitter two weeks ago.
The group called Julian Assange “a new breed of terrorist” and said it had launched its attack in response to his attempt to gain asylum in Ecuador.
The attack coincided with WikiLeaks’ release of a new portion of emails supposedly acquired by the hacktivist group Anonymous from the server of consulting firm Stratfor. The latest leaks concern the alleged existence of a clandestine US-based surveillance system called TrapWire, which collects images from surveillance cameras across the US and uses them to track individuals and preemptively identify possible threats to national security. An attempt to censor RT?
In reaction to the DDoS attack on RT.com, WikiLeaks slammed the attempt ”to censor” RT, saying the channel is “an important alternative voice in the West.”
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has received a rapturous reception during a carefully staged appearance on the balcony of Ecuador's London embassy, where he has taken refuge for two months.
Supporters, who numbered around 200 when Assange took to the microphone shortly after 2pm on Sunday (2300 AEST), clapped and chanted through a megaphone outside the embassy in the upmarket Knightsbridge neighbourhood.
Around 150 of the world's press also gathered at the site to hear from the man at the centre of a diplomatic storm between Britain and Ecuador.
As anticipation grew before Assange's appearance, the atmosphere on the street resembled a rock concert as activists cheered while former Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon and the leftist intellectual Tariq Ali took to the loudspeaker.
"I have spoken to Julian Assange and I can tell you he is in fighting spirits and he is thankful to the people of Ecuador and especially to the president for granting asylum," said Garzon.
"Julian Assange has always fought for truth and justice and has defended human rights and continues to do so," he added.
Messages from supporters including fashion designer Vivienne Westwood and film-maker Ken Loach were read out to the impatient public.
As the wait dragged on, a WikiLeaks activist on the balcony started a countdown, signalling to the crowd "five minutes" then "one minute" to go.
When the moment arrived, the small street bordering the famous Harrods department store was packed, with police forming a security cordon to contain the crowd.
"Can you hear me?" asked the day's star turn, eliciting loud cheers from his supporters.
The founder of the whistle-blowing website reminded the audience of the "threat" made by Britain that it could storm the embassy. He also thanked activists who maintained a constant vigil outside the building, saying "the world is watching because you are watching!"
It was the first time in months that Assange has mobilised such crowds as support waned during his two-year failed judicial challenge to remain in Britain and avoid extradition to Sweden for questioning over rape and sexual assault allegations.
Ironically, it seems that it was Britain's threat to invoke a 1987 law to remove Assange from the embassy which has brought the former computer hacker back into the media spotlight.
Ecuadoran supporters outside the embassy chanted "the people united will never be defeated", and were later joined by English sympathisers.
At no time in Assange's statement, or in those of his supporters, was his Swedish sexual assault case mentioned, nor did he indicate what his next move might be as he cannot leave the Ecuadoran embassy without risking arrest.