June 30, 2013

Ecuador president: Snowden can't leave Moscow

The Associated Press

(Continued from page 1)

He similarly declined to reject an important set of U.S. trade benefits for Ecuadorean exports, again a contrast with his government's unilateral renunciation of a separate set of tariff benefits earlier in the week.

"If he really could have broken North American laws, I am very respectful of other countries and their laws and I believe that someone who breaks the law must assume his responsibilities," Correa said. "But we also believe in human rights and due process."

He said Biden had asked him to send Snowden back to the United States immediately because he faces criminal charges, is a fugitive from justice and has had his passport revoked.

"I told him that we would analyze his opinion, which is very important to us," Correa said, adding that he had demanded the return of several Ecuadoreans who are in the United States but face criminal charges at home.

"I greatly appreciated the call," he said, contrasting it with threats made by a small group of U.S. senators to revoke Ecuadorean trade privileges. "When I received the call from Vice President Biden, which was with great cordiality and a different vision, we really welcomed it a lot."

Ecuadorean officials believe Russian authorities stymied the country's efforts to approve a political asylum application from the former NSA systems analyst, according to government officials with direct knowledge of the case.

Those officials said Ecuador had been making detailed plans to receive and host Snowden. One of the officials said Russia's refusal to let Snowden leave or be picked up by Ecuadorean officials had thwarted the plans. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the case by name.

One of the officials said Snowden had intended to travel from Moscow to the Ecuadorean capital of Quito. The official said Ecuador had also asked Russia to let Snowden take a commercial flight to meet Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino in Vietnam or Singapore, where Patino was on an official trip.

The Russians rejected all of Ecuador's requests to let Snowden leave Moscow, or to let an Ecuadorean government plane pick him up there, the official said.

Asked Sunday about those accounts, Correa responded, without elaborating, "We don't have long-range aircraft. It's a joke."

Snowden's path to Ecuador would have gone through Cuba, which said little about the case all week, including whether it would have allowed him to use its territory to transit.

Cuban leader Fidel Castro praised Correa's rejection of U.S. trade pressure, expressing his "sympathies" for the Ecuadorean leader in a Sunday editorial in the state press.

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