Ecuador: No quick decision on Snowden asylum

June 26, 2013 at 5:35 PM
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MOSCOW, June 26 (UPI) -- Ecuador might take months to rule on asylum for Edward Snowden, now in limbo at a Moscow airport, the country's foreign minister said Wednesday.

Ricardo Patino, in Malaysia for a conference, said Ecuador would have to consider whether sheltering Snowden, a former contractor for the U.S. National Security Agency, would hurt the country's economy by damaging trade with the United States, Diario El Universo reported. He said the country took two months to decide to grant asylum to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, and Snowden cannot expect a quicker decision.

Snowden has been in a transit area at the Moscow airport for three days. While President Vladimir Putin has refused to extradite him to the United States, he has also not welcomed him to Russia.

"We can only extradite some foreign nationals to the countries with which we have the relevant international agreements on extradition," Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday. "With the United States, we have no such agreement."

Snowden, a former U.S. intelligence official, has been indicted by the United States for stealing and leaking classified documents, and his passport has been revoked.

Snowden had been in Hong Kong but then went to Moscow. He has since bought two tickets for flights to Havana, but had not boarded either plane, USA Today reported.

The anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks said Tuesday on its Twitter feed the United States' actions may force Snowden to stay in Russia.

"Canceling Snowden's passport and bullying intermediary countries may keep Snowden permanently in Russia," WikiLeaks said on its Twitter feed.

But a source told RIA Novosti Snowden may be running out of time in Russia if he was issued a transit visa, which is valid for only three days.

USA Today said it was not clear what his legal travel status would be if the transit visa expired.

The case of Snowden has highlighted tensions between the United States with both Russia and China, The New York Times said.

American officials were said to be angry at China for letting Snowden fly to Moscow.

Putin has said he hopes the refusal to extradite Snowden does not hurt Russia-U.S. relations.

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