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Deal to force Julian Assange out of embassy ‘imminent’

Leaving? Wikileaks founder Julian Assange PIC: AP

JULIAN ASSANGE could be forced to leave the Ecuadorian embassy within weeks, according to reports.

An agreement over the Wikileaks founder is ‘imminent’ and could be finalised when Ecuador’s president Lenín Moreno visits Britain this week, sources say.

Mr Moreno is set to meet international development secretary Penny Mordaunt in London tomorrow, and insiders say he is close to agreeing a deal under which Ecuador could withdraw its asylum protection of Mr Assange.

The 47-year-old has been holed up in the Ecuadorian embassy in Knightsbridge, west London, since June 2012. He is fearful that if he leaves, he could be extradited to the US, where he is wanted for leaking Iraq War documents

News he could be turned over to UK authorities comes after The Sunday Times reported foreign office minister Sir Alan Duncan has been in talks with Ecuador over its protection of the Australian. Mr Moreno has previously called Mr Assange a ‘hacker’ and a ‘stone in the shoe’.

The whistleblower was given political asylum under Mr Moreno’s predecessor Rafael Correa. But in March Mr Assange’s internet was cut off and restrictions were placed on who could visit him.

Mr Moreno also ordered the removal of extra security at the embassy. The operation is believed to have cost the South American country at least £3.7million, running at around £48,000 a month.

Sources close to Mr Assange believe his political asylum cannot be revoked and that he was not aware of high-level talks.

During his stay, Mr Assange’s physical and mental health is said to have deteriorated.

In March, he was branded a ‘miserable little worm’ by Sir Alan, who urged him to surrender to justice.