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Bolivia says it may offer asylum to NSA leaker Snowden

July 2, 2013 at 11:49 AM   |   Comments

MOSCOW, July 2 (UPI) -- Bolivian President Evo Morales Tuesday indicated his country is prepared to offer political asylum to NSA leaker Edward Snowden.

In an interview with the Russian TV network RT in Moscow, Morales said Bolivia had not received a request for asylum from the U.S. national secrets leaker "but if we receive a request, we are willing to consider it and enter into discussions."

"We're concerned over the way the U.S. and other countries are acting," he said. "Just imagine monitoring people's phone calls. I know that major powers have spy networks and they conspire against the so-called developing countries, especially those with natural resources, like Bolivia, Venezuela and Ecuador."

Morales said Bolivia wants to have "friendly relationships with President Obama."

Snowden withdrew his request for asylum in Russia, apparently because he was unwilling to halt activity harmful to the United States as required, a Russian official said Tuesday.

Dmitri Peskov, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, said Snowden had "abandoned" his request to remain in Russia with the restriction Putin imposed, The Washington Post reported.

However, Peskov reiterated that Russia won't return Snowden.

"The extradition of Snowden to such a country as the United States, which applies the death penalty, is impossible," he said.

Though Snowden faces charges in the United States, including two espionage-related charges, they do not carry the death penalty.

Putin suggested Monday Russia might try to impose constraints on the former National Security Agency contractor who revealed information about the NSA's cellphone and Internet monitoring programs. Among the restrictions was that Snowden stop engaging in activity that could be damaging to the United States.

"If he wants to stay here," Putin said, "there is one condition: He has to stop his work undermining our U.S. partners, as odd as it may sound coming from me."

Any offer of asylum from Russia not only would provoke Washington, which requested Snowden's return, but also hand Putin -- who seldom passes a chance to criticize Washington -- a diplomatic dispute, the Post said.

The anti-secrecy WikiLeaks organization, which is assisting Snowden, said Tuesday he had applied for asylum in 20 countries, Bolivia among them.

WikiLeaks said in a website post Snowden sent asylum requests, via Russian consulate at the airport, to Austria, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Cuba, Finland, France, Germany, India, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Poland, Spain, Switzerland and Venezuela, in addition to Ecuador and Iceland. The consul was asked to deliver the requests to embassies in Moscow.

On Monday, Kim Shevchenko, the consular officer on duty in the transit zone at Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport, where Snowden reportedly is staying, said Snowden applied for asylum in Russia Sunday.

The request was delivered by Sarah Harrison, a WikiLeaks lieutenant who accompanied Snowden to Moscow from Hong Kong, where Snowden originally fled. It was forwarded to the Foreign Ministry, Shevchenko said.

In a statement posted on the WikiLeaks website, Snowden lashed out at the Obama administration for tactics he said left him "a stateless person."

"The Obama administration has now adopted the strategy of using citizenship as a weapon," he said. "Although I am convicted of nothing, it has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person."

Snowden said the Obama administration wasn't afraid of whistle-blowers but of the American public.

"It is afraid of an informed, angry public demanding the constitutional government it was promised -- and it should be," he said.

The full statement can be read here: tinyurl.com/UPI-Snowden-Statement.

Although the leftist government in Ecuador praised Snowden last week, President Rafael Correa's position shifted Friday following a call from U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, who asked that Ecuador return Snowden to the United States should he arrive in the South American country.

Snowden's espionage disclosures have embarrassed the Obama administration and created public tensions with other countries, including European and other allies as well as China and Russia.

The administration has charged Snowden with breaking espionage laws after revealing information about highly classified domestic and international surveillance programs.

It also revoked his U.S. passport. With no valid passport, he would normally not be able to pass through Russian immigration control or travel on to another country.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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