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Ecuador Backs Off NSA Leaker Snowden, Citing Asylum Rules

The fate of "NSA leaker" Edward Snowden is still uncertain, as he seeks asylum while being pursued by U.S. authorities. A week ago, Snowden began a journey from Hong Kong to a "third country," possibly Ecuador, and he remains in limbo at a Moscow airport.

Update at 12:55 p.m. ET: Putin Discusses Snowden

Snowden is free to leave Russia at any time, says that country's president, Vladimir Putin. Solidifying his position against extraditing the former NSA contractor to the U.S., Putin says it's up to Snowden to find somewhere to go.

But, he says, for Snowden to remain in Russia, he'll have to stop leaking U.S. secrets, Putin added.

"If he wants to stay here, there is one condition: He must stop his work aimed at harming our American partners, as strange as that sounds coming from my lips," Putin said, according to Reuters.

Our original post continues:

From Moscow, NPR's Corey Flintoff reports for our Newscast unit that neither Ecuador nor Russia has brought clarity to Snowden's situation:

"Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa told The Associated Press on Sunday that Snowden is in the hands of the Russian authorities and cannot leave a Moscow airport transit area without their consent.

"Correa said Ecuador can't consider an asylum request from the 30-year-old intelligence analyst unless he applies in Ecuador or at an Ecuadoran Embassy.

"Meanwhile, a spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Snowden is not on the Kremlin's agenda.

"Dmitri Peskov did say, however, that Russian authorities would take into account requests from Russian groups that want the government to grant Snowden asylum in Russia."

Officials from Iceland, named as another possible destination for Snowden, have also said that anyone seeking asylum must be in the country or at one of its embassies.

Late last week, Ecuadorean officials declared that travel papers from their country that promised Snowden's safe passage were not valid, The Associated Press reported.

The United States has revoked Snowden's passport. The former NSA contractor has received advice from WikiLeaks, the group whose founder, Julian Assange, remains holed up in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London. As Mark reported Sunday, Assange says Snowden "is a hero."

Monday, Secretary of State John Kerry says he believes China's help would have "made a difference" in the case of Snowden, who was hiding in Hong Kong when classified documents he had provided to the media were published.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit www.npr.org.

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