Ecuador says exploring mediation to solve Assange standoff

This handout photo released by the press office of Ecuador's Foreign Ministry shows Foreign Minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa speaking during a meeting with foreign correspondents in Quito on Tuesday. (AFP)
Updated 10 January 2018

Ecuador says exploring mediation to solve Assange standoff

QUITO: Ecuador said on Tuesday it was exploring mediation to solve the standoff over WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been holed up in Ecuador’s Embassy in London for five years, and called for cooperation from the United Kingdom and the international community.
Former leftist President Rafael Correa, who had said Assange was a “journalist,” granted him asylum in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over rape allegations.
The Andean country’s new government, however, has said it is concerned over Assange’s “complicated” situation. President Lenin Moreno has described Assange as a “hacker,” while stressing he would not be kicked out of the embassy.
“We’re considering, exploring the possibility of a mediation,” Foreign Minister Maria Fernanda Espinosa told foreign reporters on Tuesday, adding that a third country or person could lead a potential mediation.
“No solution can be reached without international cooperation and without cooperation from the United Kingdom, which in addition has shown interest in finding a solution.”
Further details were not immediately available.
In May, Sweden dropped the investigation into rape allegations that led Assange to seek asylum in the embassy in 2012, but British police said he would still be arrested if he left the building.
Assange, who denies the rape allegations, fears being handed over to the United States to face prosecution over WikiLeaks’ publication of thousands of classified military and diplomatic documents in one of the largest information leaks in US history.


Afghan poll body misses announcing crucial presidential initial vote

Updated 19 October 2019

Afghan poll body misses announcing crucial presidential initial vote

  • The chief of the country’s Independent Election Commission (IEC), blamed technical reasons for missing the timetable
  • She said the results would be announced “as soon as possible”

KABUL: Afghanistan’s election commission conceded its failure to release initial presidential poll results set for Saturday and gave no new deadline for the vote which was marred by Taliban attacks and irregularities.
The presidential poll on Sept. 28 saw the lowest turnout of any elections in Afghanistan since the Taliban’s ousting.
Hawa Alam Nuristani, the chief of the country’s Independent Election Commission (IEC), blamed technical reasons, particularly slowness in entering data on to the server, for missing the timetable.
“Regrettably, the commission due to technical issues and for the sake of transparency could not announce the presidential election initial poll results,” she said in a brief announcement.
Without naming any camp, Nuristani also said: “A number of observers of election sides (camps) illegally are disrupting the process of elections.” She did not elaborate.
Nuristani said the results would be announced “as soon as possible,” while earlier in the day two IEC members said privately that the delay would take up to a week.
The delay is another blow for the vote that has been twice delayed due to the government’s mismanagement and meetings between the US and the Taliban, which eventually collapsed last month after President Donald Trump declared the talks “dead.”
It further adds to political instability in Afghanistan, which has seen decades of conflict and foreign intervention and faced ethnic divides in recent years.
Both front-runners, President Ashraf Ghani and the country’s chief executive, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, have said that they expect to win.
The pair have been sharing power in Afghanistan as part of a US-brokered deal following the fraudulent polls of 2014.
The IEC has invalidated more than 500,000 votes because they were not conducted through biometric devices, bought for the vote from overseas to minimize the level of cheating in last month’s polls.
Officials of the commission said that nearly 1.8 million votes were considered clean and it was not clear what sort of impact the turnout would have on the legitimacy of the polls and the future government, whose main task will be to resume stalled peace talks with the Taliban.
They said that the slowness of data entry on to the server was one of the technical reasons for the delay in releasing initial poll results.
Yousuf Rashid, a senior official from an election watchdog group, described the delay as a “weakness of mismanagement,” while several lawmakers chided IEC for poor performance.
Abdul Satar Saadat, a former senior leader of an electoral body, told Arab News: “The delay showed IEC’s focus was on transparency” and that should be regarded as a sign that it took the issue of discarding fraudulent votes seriously.