* President Correa and foreign minister deny media rumors

* Decision on asylum for WikiLeaks founder expected this week

By Eduardo Garcia

QUITO, Aug 14 (Reuters) - Ecuador denied a report on Tuesday that it had granted amnesty to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and the country's foreign minister said only he and President Rafael Correa could make the decision.

Assange has been taking refuge in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London for the past eight weeks to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning on sex crime allegations.

The former computer hacker, who enraged Washington in 2010 when his WikiLeaks website published thousands of secret U.S. diplomatic cables, says he fears he could be sent to the United States, where he believes his life would be at risk.

Correa has said a decision on Assange's application is likely before the end of this week and that he will meet his foreign minister, Ricardo Patino, on Wednesday to discuss the case.


However, Britain's Guardian newspaper cited unnamed Ecuadorean government officials as saying amnesty will be granted. The report brought a swift response from Correa.

" The story is false ... When we make the decision we'll explain very clearly the reasons, the legal framework, the analysis that we made to grant or not asylum to Mr Julian Assange," Cor rea told a press conference in the coastal city of Guayaquil.

Speaking to Reuters on the sidelines of an event in the highland city of Ambato, Foreign Minister Patino also criticized the report by The Guardian.

"Anonymous sources are useless. Only the president and myself will make the decision ... there's nothing yet," he said.

Earlier, Patino told Reuters that Ecuador was pondering not only whether to give Assange asylum, but also how he might avoid arrest in Britain should he try to head to South America.


BREACH OF BAIL TERMS

By diplomatic convention, British police cannot enter the embassy without Ecuador's approval. But the WikiLeaks founder has no way of boarding a flight to the Andean country without passing through London and exposing himself to arrest.

"It's not only about whether to grant the asylum, because for Mr. Assange to leave England he should have a safe pass from the British (government). Will that be possible? That's an issue we have to take into account," said Patino, who has led Ecuador's analysis of the case.

Assange is in breach of his British bail conditions and the police have said he is liable to arrest if he steps out of the Ecuadorean Embassy, which is in London's affluent Knightsbridge area, miles from any airport.

It appears unlikely that the British government would grant Assange safe passage to an airport as that would mean going against the Swedish arrest warrant and a ruling by Britain's own Supreme Court that the warrant was valid.

Leftist Correa, a self-declared enemy of "corrupt" media and U.S. "imperialism," said he sympathizes with Assange but also respects the British legal system and international law.

The British government has made it clear to Ecuador that it is determined to extradite Assange to Sweden, the Foreign Office said in a statement on Tuesday.

Roger Gherson, a lawyer and expert on British immigration law and related human rights issues, said a grant of asylum by Ecuador would not protect Assange from being sent to Sweden.

"It's not a get-out-of-jail-free card for any conduct anywhere in the world," Gherson told Reuters.

British and Ecuadorean authorities have been discussing the case but have not indicated what the solution could be.

Assange has not been charged with any offense in Sweden or the United States. Swedish prosecutors want to question him about allegations of rape and sexual assault made by two WikiLeaks supporters in 2010. Assange says he had consensual sex with the women.

If Correa's government were to grant Assange asylum, U.S. trade ties with Ecuador could suffer over the long-term, American business leaders and analysts said on Monday.

"It's not a move destined to win many new friends in Washington," said Eric Farnsworth of the Council of Americas, a group that represents companies doing business in Latin America.

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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)

  • A picture shows a portrait of Wikileaks

    A picture shows a portrait of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is taped to a Union Flag 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)

  • Wikileaks founder Julian Assange's lawye

    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)

  • Supreme Court Rules On Extradition Of Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange

    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

    WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange attends a press conference in central London on February 27, 2012. Whistleblowing website WikiLeaks on February 27 began publishing more than five million confidential emails from US-based intelligence firm Stratfor, the anti-secrecy group said. AFP PHOTO / CARL COURT (Photo credit should read CARL COURT/AFP/Getty Images)

  • (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)

  • 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 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)

  • Wikileaks Founder Julian Assange Arrives At Court Seeking To Refer His Case To The Supreme Court

    LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 05: Julian Assange, the founder of the whistle-blowing 'WikiLeaks,' leaves the High Court after winning the right to petition the UK Supreme Court to review his extradition to Sweden on December 5, 2011 in London, England. Last month Mr Assange lost a High Court challenge to his extradition to Sweden where he is due to face charges of sex offences. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

  • 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)