Ecuador defends decision to consider Snowden's asylum bid
Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa on Thursday defended his government's decision to consider the asylum request made by Edward Snowden, a U.S. intelligence agent-turned-whistleblower accused of espionage by Washington, Xinhua reported.
"To grant or deny asylum is an inherent right of every sovereign country, therefore it is unheard of trying and discrediting a state for receiving an asylum request," Correa told reporters at a public event, in reaction to U.S. complaints that third countries are willing to harbor the "criminal."
He indicated that the United States is trying to manipulate the matter in accordance to its advantage by casting itself as the victim.
"The important thing is the terrible case of massive spying by the U.S. government, both on a national and international scale," Correa said.
The president also renounced Ecuador's participation in a preferential trade treaty with the United States, saying his country did not want the upcoming renewal of the treaty to be used as "blackmail" to influence its decision on granting asylum.
"As long as I am president, I will not allow this country to be blackmailed. Our principles are not for sale," Correa said.
Snowden, a former contractor at the U.S. National Security Agency, blew the lid on his country's secret global surveillance program and is now wanted on espionage charges.
He initially fled the United States for Hong Kong, but is now believed to be awaiting word of asylum from Ecuador at the transit area of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport.
Earlier in the day, Political Management Secretary Betty Tola denied reports that Ecuador had authorized granting safe conduct to Snowden, so that he can travel to the South American country.