U.S. pressures Ecuador on Snowden in 'cordial' phone chat
'The decision is ours to make,' says Ecuador's president Rafael Correa
U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden has asked Ecuador to turn down an asylum request from National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, the country's president said Saturday.
Ecuador's president, Rafael Correa, said he had a "friendly and very cordial" conversation with Biden, and told the vice-president that Ecuador hadn't sought to be put in the situation of deciding whether to harbour an American fugitive. Correa said Ecuador can't consider the asylum request until Snowden is on Ecuadorean soil.
"The moment that he arrives, if he arrives, the first thing is we'll ask the opinion of the United States, as we did in the Assange case with England," Correa said. "But the decision is ours to make."
Julian Assange, founder of the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks has been given asylum in Ecuador's embassy in London.
White House spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan confirmed that the two leaders spoke by phone Friday and discussed Snowden, but wouldn't disclose any details about the conversation. It's the highest-level conversation between the U.S. and Ecuador that has been publicly disclosed since Snowden began seeking asylum from Ecuador.
Correa, in a weekly television address, praised Biden for being more courteous than U.S. senators who have threatened economic penalties if Ecuador doesn't co-operate.
At the same time, Correa rebuked the Obama administration for hypocrisy, invoking the case of two bankers, brothers Roberto and William Isaias, whom Ecuador is seeking to extradite from the U.S.
"Let's be consistent," Correa said. "Have rules for everyone, because that is a clear double-standard here."
The U.S. believes Snowden is holed up in a Moscow airport's transit zone. He may be waiting to see whether Ecuador or another country may grant him asylum. Snowden is charged with violating American espionage laws.