Ecuador replaces London envoy ahead of talks on Assange

Ecuador Wednesday announced the appointment of a new ambassador in London where Wikileaks founder Julian Assange has been holed up in its embassy for nearly a year to avoid extradition to Sweden.

Ana Alban, who was ambassador when Assange took refuge at the Ecuadoran embassy June 19, 2012, is being replaced by former bank superintendent Juan Falconi Puig, Vice Foreign Minister Marco Albuha said.

Albuha earlier this week denied a British newspaper report that Alban was removed for taking in Assange. He said she requested a transfer last year and had submitted her resignation early this year.

But the move comes days before a visit to London by Ecuador's Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino, who is scheduled to meet Monday with British Foreign Minister William Hague to discuss Assange's situation.

Patino said last week he hoped the meeting with Hague "will enable us to envisage a solution to the Assange case."

Assange turned up at the Ecuadoran embassy after the United Kingdom's Supreme Court turned down Assange's last appeal to avert extradition to Sweden.

British police are under orders to arrest Assange if he sets foot outside the Ecuadorean embassy.

He is wanted for questioning in Sweden over sexual assault allegations, but the Australian activist has said he fears he will be extradited to the United States to face trial for a massive leak of US diplomatic and military documents.

Ecuador formally granted Assange diplomatic asylum August 16, 2012.

Albuja told AFP that Ecuador's appointment of Falconi received British "verbal approval," which is expected to be made official in the next few days.