Edward Snowden

Edward Snowden

., The Guardian via AP

Russian President Vladimir Putin waited while his Venezuelan counterpart, Nicolas Maduro, greeted Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov.

MAXIM SHEMETOV • Associated Press,

NSA leaker Edward Snowden's asylum options shrinking

  • Article by: Rick Gladstone and William Neuman
  • New York Times
  • July 3, 2013 - 12:20 AM

It began as a seemingly offhand remark by the president of Bolivia, who suggested during a visit to Moscow that he might be happy to host Edward Snowden, the fugitive former security contractor who is desperate to find asylum. It escalated into a major diplomatic scramble in which the Bolivian president’s plane was rerouted Tuesday because of suspicions that Snowden was aboard.

By day’s end, outraged Bolivian officials, insisting that Snowden was not on the plane, were accusing France and Portugal of acting under U.S. pressure to rescind permission for President Evo Morales’ plane to traverse their airspace on the way back to Bolivia. Low on fuel, the plane’s crew won permission to land in Vienna.

“They say it was due to technical issues, but after getting explanations from some authorities we found that there appeared to be some unfounded suspicions that Snowden was on the plane,” Bolivian Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca said in Vienna, where Morales was spending the night.

Defense Minister Ruben Saavedra, who was on the plane with Morales, accused the Obama administration of being behind the action by France and Portugal. There was no immediate response by officials in Paris, Lisbon or Washington, but in a possible sign of further suspicion about the passenger manifest, Saavedra said that Italy had refused to give permission for the plane to fly over its airspace in response to a request for a new flight plan.

Hours earlier, Morales, who was attending an energy conference in Moscow, had been asked whether he would consider giving asylum to Snowden, 30, who’s been at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport for more than a week, his passport revoked by the United States, unable to go anywhere. Bolivia is one of at least 19 countries reported to have received an application from him.

“Why not?” Morales responded, Bolivian news media accounts said. “His case has triggered international debate, and of course, Bolivia is ready to take in people who denounce things.”

President Nicols Maduro of Venezuela, who was also at the conference, had suggested he might offer Snowden asylum but did not plan to fly him to Venezuela.

Their pronouncements appeared to be among Snowden’s diminishing prospects for asylum. Austria, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Norway and Spain all said that requests for asylum must be made in person on their territories and therefore Snowden had not properly submitted an application. India and Brazil said they had rejected Snowden’s request outright. Poland said that it had received an application that was not properly submitted, but that it would have been rejected in any event.

A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin, Dmitri S. Peskov, confirmed that Snowden had rescinded his request for asylum in Russia, apparently because he was unwilling to go along with Putin’s requirement that he stop any activity damaging to the United States.

The Washington Post contributed to this report.

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