|Ecuador's President Rafael Correa greets protesters during a demonstration in favor of the founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, in front of Carondelet Palace, in Quito, capital of Ecuador, on Aug. 20, 2012. (Xinhua/Santiago Armas)
QUITO, Aug. 20 (Xinhua) -- Hundreds of Ecuadorians rallied outside the presidential palace here to support President Rafael Correa's decision to grant political asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
Standing at a balcony and accompanied by Vice President Lenin Moreno, Correa greeted the crowd, which included several congressmen and other members of the ruling leftist Alliance PAIS and carried banners and images of Assange.
The refuge decision has irked the governments of Britain and Sweden, but increased the president's popularity at home.
"We live in a sovereign country, a country that won't kneel down. We don't have to consult with Britain," Jorge de La Torre, a Correa supporter and indigenous leader, told a local radio station.
Activist Jorge Cordoba said granting asylum to Assange was "a right exercised by Ecuador." "The country is sovereign to make this decision, as our president has bravely done," he added.
Pedro de la Cruz, an indigenous congressman and PAIS member, said he expected foreign ministers of the Organization of American States (OAS), who are scheduled to meet Friday in Washington, to reject Britain's stance on the Assange affair.
Ecuador announced last Thursday that it would grant political asylum to Assange, who fears U.S. retribution for exposing secret U.S. military documents of its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through his whistleblower website.
The British government said it would refuse to give Assange safe passage to leave the country, and threatened to storm the Ecuadorian embassy in London, where Assange has been staying for two months.
The British government wants to extradite Assange to Sweden, where he was accused of sexual misconduct in 2010. Neither of the governments has ruled out the possibility of handing over Assange to U.S. authorities.
Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said earlier Monday that the government was willing to reach a negotiated settlement with Britain through dialogue before submitting the case to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
Also on Monday, the Latin American Integration Association (ALADI) became the third regional organization to voice its support for Ecuador.
ALADI Secretary General Carlos Alvarez issued a statement ratifying "the sovereign right of every government to grant asylum" and reaffirming "the Ecuadorian government's willingness to resolve the dispute through dialogue."
Alvarez, a former president of Argentina, "urged Great Britain to sit at the negotiating table and amicably resolve the dispute."
ALADI is a 14-member Latin American trade integration association based in Montevideo, grouping Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Chile, Ecuador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.