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Ecuador president says Biden called him about Snowden

QUITO, Ecuador — President Rafael Correa of Ecuador said Saturday that Vice President Joe Biden had asked him in a telephone call not to grant asylum to Edward J. Snowden, the fugitive former security contractor wanted in the United States.

Correa, speaking on his weekly television broadcast, said that the two had a “cordial” conversation on Friday initiated by Biden, but said he could not decide on Snowden’s request until he entered Ecuador.

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The fallout from Snowden’s disclosures widened Saturday, as the German magazine Der Spiegel reported that the United States had eavesdropped on European Union offices in Washington, Brussels and at the United Nations in New York. Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor who revealed details about U.S. surveillance programs, fled to Hong Kong last month and then left there last week in a bid to find a safe haven to escape charges of violating espionage laws in the United States. He arrived in Moscow last Sunday, where he has remained out of sight, apparently cloistered in a transit area of the airport there.

Ecuadorean officials have said that Snowden asked them for asylum. But after initially signaling that his government was studying the request, Correa said Thursday that under his country’s laws, the request could not be processed unless Snowden was in Ecuador or one of its embassies.

In Washington, Bernadette Meehan, a National Security Council spokeswoman, called the discussion between Correa and Biden “a broad conversation regarding the bilateral relationship.”

Correa regularly denounces the United States, calling it an imperialist power that tries to bully small countries like Ecuador. But he said he told Biden that Ecuador would take the opinion of the United States into account if it eventually had to make a decision in the case.

He contrasted Biden’s courteous attitude with what he has characterized as the bad manners of some members of Congress who threatened to end trade benefits for Ecuador’s exports to the United States if the country gave refuge to Snowden.

The Ecuadorean president also said last week that Ecuadorean officials had had little contact with Snowden since his arrival in Moscow.

It is not clear how Snowden could get to Ecuador or one of its embassies. The United States has revoked his passport, and Correa denied reports that Ecuador gave him papers permitting him to travel internationally.

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