Snowden asylum decision could take time

Ecuador could take weeks to decide on an asylum bid by fugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden, the South American country's foreign minister Ricardo Patino told reporters on Wednesday.

Snowden, who leaked information about massive US surveillance programmes to gather phone and Internet data, deeply embarrassing the administration of President Barack Obama, is in Moscow's airport awaiting word on his Ecuador asylum bid.

"It took us two months to make a decision in the case of Assange so do not expect us to make a decision sooner this time," Patino, who is on a brief stop in Malaysia, said in a reference to WikiLeaks site founder Julian Assange.

Assange, whose site stunned and embarrassed Washington with the release of top-secret US diplomatic cables, was granted asylum by Ecuador and has been holed up in its embassy in London for a year.

He is wanted for questioning in Sweden over alleged sexual assault, but says he refuses to leave the embassy because he fears arrest.

In a visit to Vietnam on Tuesday, Patino said Ecuador was weighing Snowden's asylum bid.

But he also defended Snowden's actions, saying they "shed light" on US practices.

Snowden had previously turned up in Hong Kong, and authorities there angered Washington -- which has issued an arrest warrant -- by allowing him to leave the southern Chinese territory on Sunday.

Snowden has since spent four days at a Moscow airport without crossing the Russian border, his fate in the balance.

On Tuesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin rejected calls for his extradition to the United States.

Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa said Monday on Twitter that his country would consider Snowden's asylum request "very responsibly."

Patino indicated Ecuador had not yet decided whether to open the doors for Snowden if he seeks asylum at one of the country's embassies.

"If he goes to an embassy then we will make the decision," he said.

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