QUITO: Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa said on Saturday the United States had asked him not to grant asylum for former US spy agency contractor Edward Snowden in a “cordial” telephone conversation he held with Vice President Joe Biden.
Correa said he vowed to respect Washington’s opinion in evaluating the request. The Andean nation says it cannot begin processing Snowden’s request unless he reaches Ecuador or one of its embassies.
Snowden, who is wanted by the United States for leaking details about US communications surveillance programmes, is believed to still be at the Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow after leaving Hong Kong.
Praising Biden’s good manners in contrast to “brats” in the US Congress who had threatened to cut Ecuador’s trade benefits over the Snowden issue, Correa said during his weekly television broadcast: “He communicated a very courteous request from the United States that we reject the (asylum) request.”
Biden initiated the phone call, Correa said.
“When he (Snowden) arrives on Ecuadorean soil, if he arrives ... of course, the first opinions we will seek are those of the United States,” Correa said.
A senior White House official travelling with President Barack Obama in Africa on Saturday confirmed the conversation had taken place.
The case has been a major embarrassment for the Obama administration, which is now facing withering criticism around the world for the espionage programme known as Prism that Snowden revealed.
A German magazine on Saturday, citing secret documents, reported that the United States bugged European Union offices and gained access to EU internal computer networks, which will likely add to the furor over US spying efforts.
Correa has for years been at loggerheads with Washington on issues ranging from the war on drugs to a long-running environmental dispute with US oil giant Chevron.
A leftist economist who received a doctorate from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, Correa denied he was seeking to perturb relations and said he had “lived the happiest days of my life” in the United States.