AROMO (AFP) – President Rafael Correa said Saturday he has spoken with US Vice President Joe Biden about Edward Snowden, and that the American official asked Ecuador to reject the fugitive intelligence leaker's asylum request.
Correa said Ecuador would consult with the United States before making a decision but that ultimately it is up to Quito whether to grant asylum to the young man who has made bombshell revelations about covert US surveillance of phone records and Web traffic.
Correa said the conversation took place Friday, as Biden called and "passed on a polite request from the United States to reject the request".
Correa said he told Biden, "Mr. Vice president, thanks for calling. We hold the United States in high regard. We did not seek to be in this situation. Do not get the idea that we are anti-American, as some ill-spirited media outlets are doing."
Correa said he explained to Biden that Ecuador cannot process Snowden's asylum request because he is not physically in the South American country.
"When he comes to Ecuadoran soil, if in fact he ever does, and we have to process the request, the first people whose opinion we will seek is that of the United States," he said.
Correa made his remarks on the Snowden case in a weekly address to the people of Ecuador, this time from the coastal town of Aromo.
Snowden, currently holed up at a Moscow airport transit area after fleeing from Hong Kong, requested asylum in Ecuador last weekend.
Ecuador has granted refuge to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange at its embassy in London for the past year.
Correa said Saturday Ecuador will follow the same procedure as it did then.
"Just as we did in the Assange case with England, we are going to listen to everyone but the decision would be ours as a sovereign nation. But of course, with affection and respect for the United States, we are going to keep very much in mind what that country has to say," Correa said.
Correa said the conversation with Biden was "quite courteous, and I would even say cordial."
He said the Internet and phone surveillance programs that the former National Security Agency subcontractor revealed amount to the biggest espionage case in history.
What the United States needs to do, Correa said, is explain those once secret programs rather than focus on catching Snowden and "tear apart a president, government or country that dares to say it will process an asylum request if it receives one".