PUERTO VIEJO, Ecuador — Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa has told The Associated Press that National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden is "under the care of Russian authorities" and can't leave Moscow's international airport without his U.S. passport.
In an interview with the AP Sunday morning, Correa said he had no idea Snowden's intended destination was Ecuador when Snowden fled Hong Kong for Russia last week. He said the Ecuadorean consul in London committed "a serious error" without consulting any officials in Ecuador's capital when the consul issued a letter of safe passage for Snowden.
Correa said "the case is not in Ecuador's hands" and said Snowden must assume responsibility if he broke U.S. laws. But Correa said the broader legitimacy of Snowden's action must be taken into consideration and Ecuador would still consider an asylum request.
Correa told Reuters news agency his government cannot begin considering asylum for Snowden, wanted by Washington for leaking confidential information about a surveillance program, until he reaches Ecuador or an Ecuadorean embassy.
The 30-year-old former National Security Agency contractor has not been able to leave the Moscow international airport.
"It's up to the Russian authorities if he can leave the Moscow airport for an Ecuadorean embassy," Correa said in an interview with Reuters in the coastal city of Portoviejo.
"He will be treated just like any other citizen even though he does not have a passport. We are clear that this is a special situation."
Correa said WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, granted asylum last year in Ecuador's London embassy, has not lost the country's support despite contributing to confusion over a travel document issued to Snowden by Ecuador's government.
“In these crises when there is need to respond with urgency, it's also possible to make mistakes, but Mr. Assange continues to enjoy our support, respect and appreciation," he said.
Correa said he sent his best regards to Snowden and told him to "keep his spirits high" as he seeks to escape his limbo.
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