Ecuador says reports it could soon expel WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange from its London embassy are "unfounded rumours", as a friend who had been visiting the Australian said things inside were extremely tense.
"It is tense because he is expecting to be thrown out at any minute," Vaughan Smith told media on Friday afternoon after exiting the embassy.
"He perceives, and he's right, the Americans have an extradition going on... and so if he is evicted from the embassy, he'll be taken in the hands of the British police to await an extradition by America."
Smith said his visit had been arranged before the current situation arose.
Although they had not discussed it fully, Smith said Assange believed he was being blamed for the INA Papers because he used to be the editor of WikiLeaks, despite not having been in direct contact with the organisation in a while and having had no internet access since last year.
He described Assange as being very stressed over the situation but that he was broadly healthy and his mental state was "stable".
But Assange wanted to stay where he was.
"His fear is he'll be evicted from the embassy and then face extradition to America for potentially a life imprisonment," Smith said.
Meanwhile, Ecuador's foreign affairs minister has dismissed the reports of Assange's imminent expulsion from the embassy as "unfounded rumours".
"Rumors of the 'imminent' expulsion of Assange date back several months. The government won't comment on the current unfounded rumors, which are also insulting," Jose Valencia said on Twitter.
"Ecuador makes its decisions in a sovereign manner, independently of other countries," he said, adding that the government "has the right to grant or withdraw it (asylum) unilaterally when it feels it is justified".
A senior official told The Associated Press that no decision had been taken to expel Assange from the embassy.
WikiLeaks, citing high-level sources in Ecuador, raised the alarm late on Friday AEDT that the Australian's expulsion was imminent and would take place within hours or days.
A few Assange supporters turned up as the news went out and remained outside the embassy in west London on Friday along with a media pack and armed police.
"Expelling Julian Assange would be illegal, violate international refugee law and be an attack on the UN which has repeatedly called for Assange to be able to walk free.
"It will be a sad day for democracy if the UK and Ecuadorean governments are willing to act as accomplices to the Trump administration's determination to prosecute a publisher for publishing truthful information," Assange's legal team said in a statement quoted by the British Press Association.
WikiLeaks said Ecuador would use the INA Papers offshore scandal as a pretext and that the country that had given Assange refuge had an agreement with the UK for his arrest.
The INA Papers are a collection of documents leaked to an Ecuadorian lawmaker, which have implicated President Lenin Moreno in a corruption scandal.
The WikiLeaks statement comes two days after Mr Moreno accused Assange of repeatedly violating the terms of his asylum. He also said Quito was seeking an arrangement with Britain to allow him to leave the embassy.
Ecuador also suspects that WikiLeaks is responsible for sharing private photographs of Moreno on social media recently.
Assange has been holed up in the embassy since 2012 to avoid arrest and extradition to Sweden on allegations of rape.
The Swedish judiciary has since dropped its investigation, but British authorities have said they will still arrest the Australian when he leaves the embassy because he violated his bail conditions by fleeing.
Assange fears being extradited to the US over the publication of hacked government documents on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Australian Associated Press