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Ecuador Grants Citizenship to WikiLeaks Founder Julian Assange

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LONDON—The British government on Thursday said Ecuador’s decision to grant citizenship to WikiLeaks founder

Julian

Assange, who has been living in Ecuador’s embassy in London for more than five years, wouldn’t protect him from arrest if he were to leave.

“The government of Ecuador knows that the way to resolve this issue is for Julian Assange to leave the embassy to face justice, and the granting of Ecuadorean nationality does not change this,” a U.K. government spokesman said. The spokesman added that the U.K. also had rejected Ecuador’s request to grant Mr. Assange diplomatic status, which would have given him immunity from arrest.

The Australian activist sought political asylum at Ecuador’s embassy in 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden over allegations of rape, which he denies. While Sweden last year dropped its seven-year probe into the allegations, he has continued to hole up at a small office in the embassy because of fears that U.S. authorities would seek his extradition to the U.S. to face charges for leaking thousands of classified U.S. diplomatic cables.

Ecuador’s foreign relations minister said Mr. Assange had requested citizenship in September, and it was granted last month. “Currently, Ecuador is exploring other options for a solution, of course in talks with the United Kingdom,”

María Fernanda Espinosa

said Thursday.

London police have said they would arrest Mr. Assange if he steps out of the embassy based on an outstanding British arrest warrant. The warrant was issued after he skipped bail from the court that was hearing the request for his extradition to Sweden.

Ecuadorean President 

Lenin Moreno

 said soon after taking office last May that Mr. Assange could remain at the embassy, but that he would have to stop interfering in politics of other nations. WikiLeaks has faced renewed scrutiny after it published emails from Democratic Party operatives that U.S. officials say were hacked by the Russian government. Russia denies the accusations.

Write to Jenny Gross at jenny.gross@wsj.com and Ryan Dube at ryan.dube@dowjones.com

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