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Ecuador mulls Snowden asylum, in touch with Russia

By Martin Petty

HANOI (Reuters) - Ecuador is reviewing Edward Snowden's asylum request and will make a decision on the former U.S. intelligence contractor "in due time" based on human rights considerations above all, Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said on Monday.

The South American nation's leftist government is in "respectful" contact with Russia but also taking into account the U.S. government's position on the case, Patino told reporters during a visit to Vietnam.

"We will consider the position of the U.S. government and we will take a decision in due time in line with the (Ecuadorean) constitution, the laws, international politics and sovereignty," Patino said.

At the start of his news conference in Hanoi, Patino read the formal asylum request from Snowden and compared his case with the "persecution" of U.S. soldier Bradley Manning, who is accused of giving secret U.S. data to the WikiLeaks website.

Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor, is accused by the United States of espionage and is thought currently to be in Moscow.

Patino questioned the concept of treason allegations against Snowden and said apparent U.S. surveillance of foreign nations was in fact a rights abuse against the whole world.

"Human rights principles will always be placed above any other interest," Patino said.

"Ecuador's government has maintained respectful contact with the Russian government and has said that it is considering the asylum request ... Of course, we are considering the consequences of our decisions but we act on our principles."

Snowden, whose exposure of secret U.S. government surveillance raised questions about intrusions into private lives, was allowed to leave Hong Kong on Sunday after Washington asked the Chinese territory to arrest him on espionage charges.

Patino said Ecuador had received a U.S. request relating to Snowden via the U.S. envoy to Quito, and would consider it. He did not give details of that request.

Only Russia could say where Snowden was currently, the minister said. Reports that the 30-year-old would fly to Cuba on Monday were put in doubt when witnesses could not see him on the plane, despite heightened security.

(Additional reporting by Alexandra Valencia in Quito; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne and Daniel Wallis; Editing by Bill Trott)

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