QUITO, Ecuador — Ecuador accused Britain on Wednesday of threatening to storm its London embassy to arrest Julian Assange after the U.K. issued a stern warning to the South American nation ahead of its decision on an asylum bid by the WikiLeaks founder.

Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said Britain had earlier in the day issued "a written threat that it could assault our embassy" if Assange is not handed over.

Patino also said he would announce on Thursday morning whether Ecuador would grant the request of the secret-spilling former Australian hacker, who took refuge in Ecuador's embassy on June 19 to avoid extradition to Sweden. Assange faces questioning there for alleged sexual misconduct.

As news broke of the warning, police were seen reinforcing Scotland Yard's presence outside the embassy in a tony London neighborhood near the Harrods department store.

In Quito, about 30 people yelling "England, what part don't you understand, we are sovereign!" protested outside the British Embassy, and briefly trampled a British flag.

In London, a small group of Assange supporters were gathered outside the Ecuadorean embassy late Wednesday, according to live footage broadcast by a citizen journalist on the scene. The embassy was dark, although occasionally the curtains appeared to move.

British officials have vowed not grant Assange safe passage out of their country if Ecuador grants asylum. They say they will arrest him the moment he steps foot outside the embassy.

But they had not publicly suggested they might strip the embassy of its diplomatic inviolability.

After Patino's brief appearance before reporters, Britain's Foreign Office issued a statement citing a 1987 British law it says permits the revocation of diplomatic status of a building if the foreign power occupying it "ceases to use land for the purposes of its mission or exclusively for the purposes of a consular post."

Under international law, diplomatic posts are considered the territory of the foreign nation.

Asked by The Associated Press about Patino's characterization of Britain's warning, a Foreign Office official said via email that the letter "was not a threat" and was intended to clarify "all aspects of British law that Ecuador should be aware of." The official would not be identified by name, citing policy.

Patino said the missive including the veiled threat was delivered to his country's Foreign Ministry in writing and verbally to its ambassador in London on Wednesday. The law cited was Britain's 1987 Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act.

Patino said Ecuador "rejects in the most energetic terms the explicit threat of the official British communication."

The Foreign Office statement did not elaborate on Britain's intentions if Assange were to be granted political asylum by Ecuador whose president, Rafael Correa, has expressed sympathy for the Wikileaks founder.

"We have an obligation to extradite Mr. Assange and it is only right that we give Ecuador (the) full picture," the statement said, before adding: "We are still committed to reaching a mutually acceptable solution."

Assange, whose publishing via the Internet of thousands of sensitive U.S. diplomatic cables and military dispatches has angered U.S. officials, says the charges against him are trumped up.

His supporters say they believe the U.S. has secretly indicted him and would extradite him from Sweden.

Correa has said Assange could face the death penalty in the United States and for that reason he considers the asylum request a question of political persecution.

Analysts in Ecuador expressed doubts that Britain would raid the embassy.

Professor Julio Echeverria of Quito's FLACSO university said Britain "has a long establish tradition in Europe of respecting diplomatic missions," which under international law are considered sovereign territory.

A former Ecuadorean ambassador to London, Mauricio Gandara, told The Associated Press "I refuse to believe in this threat because if asylum is granted the British government will not grant safe passage and Mr. Assange could be in the embassy for a long time."

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Associated Press writer Frank Bajak contributed to this report from Lima, Peru

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Associated Press writers Raphael Satter in London and Frank Bajak in Lima, Peru, contributed to this report.

Earlier on HuffPost:

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  • A masked supporter of Julian Assange outside the Embassy of Ecuador in Knightsbridge, central London, as the diplomatic row between the UK and Ecuador over WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange deepened after the Foreign Office said the Government would seek to extradite him even if he is granted political asylum by the South American nation. The Ecuadorian authorities have accused the Government of threatening to enter its embassy in London to seize Mr Assange, who faces sexual assault charges in Sweden. Photo credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA

  • Masked supporters of Julian Assange outside the Embassy of Ecuador in Knightsbridge, central London, as the diplomatic row between the UK and Ecuador over WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange deepened after the Foreign Office said the Government would seek to extradite him even if he is granted political asylum by the South American nation. The Ecuadorian authorities have accused the Government of threatening to enter its embassy in London to seize Mr Assange, who faces sexual assault charges in Sweden. See PA story LEGAL Assange. Photo credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA

  • A masked supporter of Julian Assange outside the Embassy of Ecuador in Knightsbridge, central London, as the diplomatic row between the UK and Ecuador over WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange deepened after the Foreign Office said the Government would seek to extradite him even if he is granted political asylum by the South American nation. The Ecuadorian authorities have accused the Government of threatening to enter its embassy in London to seize Mr Assange, who faces sexual assault charges in Sweden. Photo credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA

  • Police Officers outside the Ecudorian Embassy in central London, after the British Government has told the Ecuadorian authorities that it believes it can enter its embassy and arrest WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is seeking political asylum. The dramatic development came two months after Assange suddenly walked into the embassy in a bid to avoid being extradited to Sweden where he faces allegations of sexual assault. Photo credit: Yui Mok/PA

  • Police Officers outside the Ecudorian Embassy in central London, after the British Government has told the Ecuadorian authorities that it believes it can enter its embassy and arrest WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who is seeking political asylum. The dramatic development came two months after Assange suddenly walked into the embassy in a bid to avoid being extradited to Sweden where he faces allegations of sexual assault. Photo credit: Yui Mok/PA

  • File photo dated 27/2/2012 of Julian Assange. The UK Government has told the Ecuadorian authorities it believes it can enter its embassy in London and arrest the WikiLeaks founder, who is seeking political asylum in the South American country, sources said. Photo credit: Lewis Whyld/PA

  • A masked supporter of Julian Assange outside the Embassy of Ecuador in Knightsbridge, central London, as the diplomatic row between the UK and Ecuador over WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange deepened after the Foreign Office said the Government would seek to extradite him even if he is granted political asylum by the South American nation. The Ecuadorian authorities have accused the Government of threatening to enter its embassy in London to seize Mr Assange, who faces sexual assault charges in Sweden. Photo credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA

  • Police officers outside the Embassy of Ecuador in Knightsbridge, central London, as the diplomatic row between the UK and Ecuador over WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange deepened after the Foreign Office said the Government would seek to extradite him even if he is granted political asylum by the South American nation. The Ecuadorian authorities have accused the Government of threatening to enter its embassy in London to seize Mr Assange, who faces sexual assault charges in Sweden. Photo credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA

  • Police officers outside the Embassy of Ecuador in Knightsbridge, central London, as the diplomatic row between the UK and Ecuador over WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange deepened after the Foreign Office said the Government would seek to extradite him even if he is granted political asylum by the South American nation. The Ecuadorian authorities have accused the Government of threatening to enter its embassy in London to seize Mr Assange, who faces sexual assault charges in Sweden. Photo credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA

  • Members of the media gather outside the Embassy of Ecuador in Knightsbridge, central London, as the diplomatic row between the UK and Ecuador over WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange deepened after the Foreign Office said the Government would seek to extradite him even if he is granted political asylum by the South American nation. The Ecuadorian authorities have accused the Government of threatening to enter its embassy in London to seize Mr Assange, who faces sexual assault charges in Sweden. Photo credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA

  • Masked supporters of Julian Assange outside the Embassy of Ecuador in Knightsbridge, central London, as the diplomatic row between the UK and Ecuador over WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange deepened after the Foreign Office said the Government would seek to extradite him even if he is granted political asylum by the South American nation. The Ecuadorian authorities have accused the Government of threatening to enter its embassy in London to seize Mr Assange, who faces sexual assault charges in Sweden. Photo credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA

  • A supporter of Wikileaks founder Julian

    A supporter of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange stands with placards outside the Supreme Court in central London on May 30, 2012 ahead of the verdict on Assange's bid to avoid extradition to Sweden. Britain's Supreme Court ruled that Assange can be extradited to Sweden over alleged sex crimes, as it rejected his appeal. AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL (Photo credit should read LEON NEAL/AFP/GettyImages)

  • Supporters of Wikileaks founder Julian A

    Supporters of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange stand with their placards and banners outside the Supreme Court in central London on May 30, 2012 ahead of the verdict on Assange's bid to avoid extradition to Sweden. Britain's Supreme Court ruled that Assange can be extradited to Sweden over alleged sex crimes, as it rejected his appeal. AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL (Photo credit should read LEON NEAL/AFP/GettyImages)

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    Wikileaks founder Julian Assange's lawyer Gareth Peirce (C) speaks to members of the press outside the Supreme Court in central London on May 30, 2012 following the announcement that Assange had lost his legal bid to avoid extradition to Sweden. Britain's Supreme Court ruled that Assange can be extradited to Sweden over alleged sex crimes, as it rejected his appeal. AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL (Photo credit should read LEON NEAL/AFP/GettyImages)

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 30: Supporters of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange demonstrate outside the UK Supreme Court following Mr Assange's extradition appeal on May 30, 2012 in London, England. The Supreme Court's president Lord Phillips explained that the judgement against Mr Assange's appeal against his extradition to Sweden to face accusations of sex offences, was reached by a majority of five to two, meaning that Assange can be extradited. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

  • WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange attends

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  • (FILES) In a file photo taken on Februar

    (FILES) In a file photo taken on February 27, 2012, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange talks during a press conference in central London. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is planning to run for election to the Australian Senate, the organisation announced on March 17, 2012 on Twitter. AFP PHOTO / CARL COURT / FILES (Photo credit should read CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images)

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 02: Julian Assange (C), the founder of the WikiLeaks whistle-blowing website and his supporters leave the Supreme Court on February 02, 2012 in London, England. Mr Assange is appearing in court for his final UK appeal against his extradition to Sweden, where he is sought for questioning over alleged sex crimes. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

  • Julian Assange Takes His Extradition Case To The Supreme Court

    LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 02: Julian Assange (C), the founder of the WikiLeaks whistle-blowing website, leaves the Supreme Court on February 02, 2012 in London, England. Mr Assange is appearing in court for his final UK appeal against his extradition to Sweden, where he is sought for questioning over alleged sex crimes. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

  • Wikileaks founder Julian Assange arrives

    Wikileaks founder Julian Assange arrives for the second day of a two day hearing at the Supreme Court in central London, on February 2, 2012. Assange took his extradition fight to Britain's Supreme Court on Wednesday, arguing that sending him to Sweden to face rape allegations would breach legal principles dating back 1,500 years. AFP PHOTO / MIGUEL MEDINA (Photo credit should read MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange Has His Extradition Case Heard At The Supreme Court

    LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 01: Julian Assange (2nd R), the founder of the WikiLeaks whistle-bowing website, leaves the Supreme Court on February 01, 2012 in London, England. Mr Assange is appearing in court for his final appeal against his extradition to Sweden, where he is sought for questioning over alleged sex crimes. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

  • Wikileaks founder Julian Assange (C) lea

    Wikileaks founder Julian Assange (C) leaves the Supreme Court in central London on February 1, 2012 on the first day of his appeal against extradition. Assange took his fight against extradition to Britain's Supreme Court On February 1, arguing that sending him to Sweden over rape allegations would breach legal principles dating back 1,500 years. AFP PHOTO / MIGUEL MEDINA (Photo credit should read MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (C) arr

    WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (C) arrives at the High Court in London on December 5, 2011 to attend a ruling in his long-running fight against extradition to Sweden. Assange was on December 5 granted permission to apply to England's highest court in a final attempt to block his extradition to Sweden over rape allegations. AFP PHOTO / GEOFF CADDICK (Photo credit should read GEOFF CADDICK/AFP/Getty Images)

  • WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (L) spe

    WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (L) speaks to the media after leaving the High Court in London on December 5, 2011 where he attended a ruling in his long-running fight against extradition to Sweden. Assange was on December 5 granted permission to apply to England's highest court in a final attempt to block his extradition to Sweden over rape allegations. AFP PHOTO / BEN STANSALL (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)

  • WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (R) lea

    WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange (R) leaves the High Court in London on December 5, 2011 where he attended a ruling in his long-running fight against extradition to Sweden. Assange was on December 5 granted permission to apply to England's highest court in a final attempt to block his extradition to Sweden over rape allegations. AFP PHOTO / BEN STANSALL (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/Getty Images)

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  • Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks

    Wikileaks founder Julian Assange speaks at a press conference at City University London in central London on December 1, 2011. Along with a number of other guest speakers, Assange spoke of the whistle-blowing site's ongoing investigation of surveillance software companies and their alleged use by governments around the world. AFP PHOTO / LEON NEAL (Photo credit should read LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)

  • (FILES) A file photo taken on November 2

    (FILES) A file photo taken on November 2, 2011, shows WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange arriving at London's High Court. Assange has vowed on March 27, 2012, to be a 'libertarian' and campaign for more openness in government if he is successful in gaining a seat in the Australian Senate. Assange, who is on bail awaiting a British court decision on his appeal against extradition to Sweden on sexual assault allegations, announced his plan to run for the upper house of parliament earlier this month. AFP PHOTO / FILES / LEON NEAL (Photo credit should read LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange Has His Extradition Case Heard At The Supreme Court

    LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 01: Julian Assange (R), the founder of the WikiLeaks whistle-bowing website, embraces Vaughan Smith, the founder of the Frontline Club who has personally stood surety for Mr Assange, as he arrives at the Supreme Court on February 1, 2012 in London, England. Mr Assange is appearing in court for his final appeal against his extradition to Sweden, where he is sought for questioning over alleged sex crimes. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

  • Wikileaks founder Julian Assange stands

    Wikileaks founder Julian Assange stands in front of a selection of inverted banking company logos as he speaks to journalists during a press conference at the Frontline Club in central London, England on October 24, 2011. Assange was announcing that due to financial blocks introduced by Bank of America, Visa, Mastercard, Paypal and Western Union, Wikileaks has lost 95% of it's revenue. With funds running low, the organisation has decided to suspend it's publishing operations to begin a period of fundraising and legal fighting to remove the blocks to donation channels. AFP PHOTO/ LEON NEAL (Photo credit should read LEON NEAL/AFP/Getty Images)

  • John Pilger

    John Pilger, an Australian journalist, broadcaster and documentary maker, talks to members of the media after meeting WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, at the Ecuadorian Embassy, in London, Friday, June 22, 2012. Assange entered the embassy on Monday in an attempt to gain political asylum to prevent him from being extradited to Sweden to face allegations of sex crimes, which he denies. In a telephone interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) from inside the embassy, the 40-year-old Australian said he did not know when the decision would be made. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

  • Press photographers take photographs of supporters of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, as they sit outside the Ecuadorian Embassy, in London, Friday, June 22, 2012. Assange entered the embassy on Monday in an attempt to gain political asylum to prevent him from being extradited to Sweden to face allegations of sex crimes, which he denies. In a telephone interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) from inside the embassy, the 40-year-old Australian said he did not know when the decision would be made. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

  • A supporter of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange sits outside the Ecuadorian Embassy, in London, Friday, June 22, 2012. Assange entered the embassy on Monday in an attempt to gain political asylum to prevent him from being extradited to Sweden to face allegations of sex crimes, which he denies. In a telephone interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) from inside the embassy, the 40-year-old Australian said he did not know when the decision would be made. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

  • Supporters of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange sit outside the Ecuadorian Embassy, in London, Friday, June 22, 2012. Assange entered the embassy on Monday in an attempt to gain political asylum to prevent him from being extradited to Sweden to face allegations of sex crimes, which he denies. In a telephone interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) from inside the embassy, the 40-year-old Australian said he did not know when the decision would be made. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

  • A British police officer stands guard outside the Ecuadorian Embassy, in London, Friday, June 22, 2012. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange entered the embassy on Monday in an attempt to gain political asylum to prevent him from being extradited to Sweden to face allegations of sex crimes, which he denies. In a telephone interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) from inside the embassy, the 40-year-old Australian said he did not know when the decision would be made about his plea for asylum. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

  • Members of the media gather across the street from the Ecuadorian Embassy, in London, Friday, June 22, 2012. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange entered the embassy on Monday in an attempt to gain political asylum to prevent him from being extradited to Sweden to face allegations of sex crimes, which he denies. In a telephone interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) from inside the embassy, the 40-year-old Australian said he did not know when the decision about his plea for asylum would be made. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

  • A British police officer stands guard outside the Ecuadorian Embassy, in London, Friday, June 22, 2012. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange entered the embassy on Monday in an attempt to gain political asylum to prevent him from being extradited to Sweden to face allegations of sex crimes, which he denies. In a telephone interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) from inside the embassy, the 40-year-old Australian said he did not know when the decision about his plea for asylum would be made. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

  • Ecuador's President Rafael Correa gestures during a press conference in Quito, Ecuador, Thursday, June 21, 2012. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange acknowledged Thursday that he doesn't know whether Ecuador will approve his unusual plea for political asylum, as he spent a third night inside the country's London embassy. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)

  • Demonstrators protest outside the Ecuadorian Embassy, London, Thursday June 21, 2012. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange entered the embassy on Tuesday in an attempt to gain political asylum. (AP Photo/Tim Hales)

  • Sarah Saunders

    Sarah Saunders leaves after talking to media outside the Ecuadorian Embassy, London, Thursday June 21, 2012. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange entered the embassy on Tuesday in an attempt to gain political asylum. Sarah Saunders contributed money towards the bail of Julian Assange. (AP Photo/Tim Hales)





CORRECTION: A previous headline on this article misstated the dispute as one over "amnesty," rather than "asylum."