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UK rejects Ecuador's request to let Assange leave embassy for an MRI

General view of the Ecuadorian Embassy, in London, Monday, Oct. 12, 2015. British police have removed the officers standing watch over Julian Assange outside the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, but say they will still do their best to arrest the WikiLeaks founder who has been holed up there since June 2012. London's Metropolitan Police said in a statement Monday that Assange is still subject to arrest for failing to answer a rape charge in Sweden. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)

General view of the Ecuadorian Embassy, in London, Monday, Oct. 12, 2015. British police have removed the officers standing watch over Julian Assange outside the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, but say they will still do their best to arrest the WikiLeaks founder who has been holed up there since June 2012. London's Metropolitan Police said in a statement Monday that Assange is still subject to arrest for failing to answer a rape charge in Sweden. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland)

Ecuadoran officials have asked the United Kingdom to let WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange leave his asylum at their country's embassy in London briefly for medical checks. Britain responded Thursday by saying he could receive medical care but would be arrested if he leaves the embassy.

Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño said that Assange needs an MRI for a pain in his shoulder that began three months ago. Assange has been living at the embassy since June 2012 to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he faces allegations of sexual misconduct and rape of two women. He denies the accusations and said he believes that Sweden would send him to the United States to face charges for the WikiLeaks publication of thousands of classified U.S. government documents.

"We are asking for a special safe conduct pass that lasts a few hours only so he can take a magnetic resonance and return under our protection," Patiño said, adding, "and possibly beneath the protection of British police, if they want to put 10,000 police alongside the vehicle to take him to the hospital."

Britain's Foreign Office said in a statement that Britain would not "in any way seek to impede Mr. Assange receiving medical advice or care. We have made this clear to the government of Ecuador."

But British officials have also made it clear that Assange faces arrest if he leaves the embassy.

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On Monday British police withdrew a 24-hour guard from the embassy, but said they would still "deploy a number of overt and covert tactics" to arrest Assange if he left.

Patiño said an option would be for another country or the Red Cross to bring a portable MRI machine to the embassy.

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