Ecuador's Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino on Monday said he was open to talks with Britain over the fate of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, holed up in the Andean nation's London embassy.
Ecuador set off a diplomatic row last week by granting asylum to Assange, who was to be extradited to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over allegations of rape and molestation made by two female WikiLeaks volunteers.
Ecuador granted asylum to the Australian national on Thursday, but Britain has refused to grant him safe passage out of the country.
Assange, 41, claims Sweden plans to hand him over to the United States, where he fears prosecution over WikiLeaks's release of a vast cache of embassy cables as well as secret files on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"We prefer to continue working on talks with Great Britain," Patino said on Ecuadoran TV network Gama.
"Heading to the International Court of Justice in The Hague would be the path to take after that."
Since the ICJ could take years to reach a decision, "we prefer that this issue is resolved before some years go by," he added.
Britain angered Ecuador by suggesting it could invoke the Diplomatic and Consular Premises Act of 1987, which it says allows it to revoke the diplomatic immunity of the embassy and go in to arrest Assange.
Before talks can start, "we expect ... that they officially tell us that the threat is no longer in effect, because it's currently in effect," Patino said.
Britain insists it never threatened to storm the building and merely made Ecuador's government aware of the existence of the law.
The WikiLeaks founder made a defiant appearance from the embassy balcony on Sunday, accusing the United States of conducting a "witch hunt" against his websites and praising Ecuador's "courage."
Foreign ministers of the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) on Sunday expressed "solidarity" with the decision to grant Assange asylum.
A joint statement at the end of the meeting urged Ecuador and Britain "to pursue dialogue in search of a mutually acceptable solution."© ANP/AFP