QUITO/LONDON - WikiLeaks' founder Julian Assange has taken refuge in Ecuador's embassy in London and asked for asylum, officials said on Tuesday, in a last-ditch bid to avoid extradition to Sweden over sex crime accusations.

Ecuadorean Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said his country would weigh the request from the self-styled anti-secrecy campaigner, whose website is famous for leaking hundreds of thousands of US diplomatic cables.

The appeal for protection was the latest twist in Assange's 18-month fight against being sent to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning about allegations of rape and sexual assault made by two female former WikiLeaks volunteers.

The situation threatens to inflame tensions between the government of Rafael Correa, Ecuador's leftist and ardently anti-Washington president, and US authorities, who accuse Assange of damaging its foreign relations with his leaks.

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