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Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who has been holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London to avoid arrest and extradition to the United States, was on Thursday denied diplomatic status by the UK Government.

Maria Fernanda Espinosa, Ecuador's foreign minister, told reporters on Thursday that the South American country accepted Assange's application for naturalisation in December.

Ecuador gave Assange asylum after he sought refuge in the embassy to avoid extradition to Sweden for investigation of sex-related claims. Although the Swedish investigation was dropped previous year, he is still facing arrest by British authorities if he leaves the diplomatic compound.

Britain's Foreign Office said Thursday it had rejected Ecuador's request to grant diplomatic status to Assange, who was born in Australia. Julian Assange, founder of the Wikileaks website that published US Government secrets, has been wanted in Sweden on charges of rape since 2012.

Although Sweden dropped the case, he is wanted by the United Kingdom police for jumping bail.

Assange has been living in the Ecuador embassy since 2012, after he was accused of many charges during his stint at WikiLeaks, which include purportedly leaking several classified documents. Shortly before the 2016 U.S. election, WikiLeaks accused Ecuadorian officials in the London embassy of temporarily cutting off the former computer hacker's internet access for publishing an array of emails belonging to Democratic nominee Hilary Clinton's campaign in a bid to impact the vote.

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In July 2014 a Swedish court upholds the European arrest warrant against Assange and in November Assange loses an appeal against the arrest warrant.

A spokeswoman for the British Foreign Office said that from its perspective: "He is free to leave the Ecuadorean embassy whenever he wants".

December 21, 2017: Ecuador allegedly issue Assange with a passport. According to London's Metropolitan Police, he will be arrested if he leaves the embassy building.

Assange fuelled rumours by Tweeting a photo of himself in the Ecuador national football team kit.

In February 2016, the United Nations panel confirms its view that Assange has been "arbitrarily detained", saying he should be able to claim compensation from Britain and Sweden.