Biden asks Ecuador to reject Snowden as a 'favor'

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BOGOTA, Colombia -- Vice President Joseph Biden called Ecuador's President Rafael Correa and asked him to reject the asylum plea of Edward Snowden, the fugitive accused National Security Agency leaker.

During his regular Saturday television program, Mr. Correa said the conversation was "polite" and that Mr. Biden had asked him to reject Mr. Snowden's request "as a favor."

Mr. Correa, 50, said the country cannot begin processing the plea until Mr. Snowden -- who is reportedly in the transit zone of a Moscow airport -- is on Ecuadorian soil.

Mr. Correa also said he brought up the case of Roberto and William Isaias, two brothers convicted in Ecuador of embezzling more than $660 million during the country's 1999 banking crisis. Both men live in Miami, and Ecuador says it has repeatedly asked for their extradition. The men have long rejected the charges, saying they were victims of the country's financial crisis.

Mr. Biden "told me that Mr. Snowden was a fugitive of American justice and didn't have a passport," Mr. Correa said, according to El Telegrafo newspaper. "I told him, 'Well, the Isaiases are fugitives of Ecuadorian justice and they also don't have passports and you won't extradite them.' "

Unlike Mr. Snowden, who is wanted on various crimes under the espionage act, the Isaias brothers "have already been convicted," Mr. Correa said.

A White House official said the conversation took place Friday.

"They engaged in a broad conversation regarding the bilateral relationship," National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said in a statement. "They did discuss Mr. Snowden, but we are not going to provide details on their discussion."

Mr. Snowden, a former CIA employee and NSA contractor, has eluded U.S. authorities who want to prosecute him for revealing secret surveillance programs that monitored Internet and telephone communications worldwide. The United States revoked his passport and Ecuador has denied reports that it provided him with valid travel documents.

On Saturday, Mr. Correa accused the international media of trying to demonize his country and losing sight of Mr. Snowden's claims.

"What's important here is what Snowden has revealed: the largest mass spying program in the history of humanity, inside and outside of the United States," Mr. Correa said.

Ecuador, which granted WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange asylum last year, announced Monday that it had received a similar request from Mr. Snowden. Since then, tensions between the nations have been on the rise. On Thursday, Mr. Correa rejected long-standing U.S. trade preferences so they wouldn't be used to blackmail the country as it ponders Mr. Snowden's plea; and the U.S. State Department warned that offering him refuge could have "grave" repercussions.

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