The allegations against Julian Assange would not be considered rape in Latin America, the president of Ecuador said yesterday.
Among other accusations, Assange is said to have slept with a woman while she slept, without using protection. The intercourse took place after they had consensual sex, during which she insisted on using condoms.
Earlier this week, George Galloway poured fuel on the storm around Assange when he said the woman was already "in the sex game" and that the accusation could not properly be considered rape.
Speaking from Guayaquil, Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa said the charges would not amount to rape in his own country.
"I don't want to judge allegations that have not been proven and would not, in any case, be considered a felony in Latin American, too," he said.
"It has never been the intention of the Ecuadorean government or Julian Assange not to respond to those allegations."
Elsewhere in his statement, President Correa expressed regret the row was hurting UK-Ecuadorian relations but insisted he would stand firm in the face of pressure from Britain and Sweden.
"If the UK distances itself from Ecuador as a result of this decision to grant asylum that would make us very sorry because we appreciate the United Kingdom – especially its people – but that will not make us go back on our position," he said.
"Despite the attitude of the United Kingdom, we as a country are obliged to act responsibly.
"As we have previously said, now that he has asylum, Mr Assange is entitled to remain in the embassy for as long as he wants."
Assange has resolutely avoided mentioning the allegations against him in Sweden, preferring instead to speak of a Pentagon-organised conspiracy to extradite him to the US.