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Venezuela, Nicaragua Offer Snowden Asylum

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has offered asylum to U.S. intelligence leaker Edward Snowden.
The presidents of Venezuela and Nicaragua say they are willing to give asylum to U.S. intelligence leaker Edward Snowden.

Snowden, whose passport has been revoked by the United States, is believed to have been staying for the past two weeks in the transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo international airport.

It was not immediately clear how Snowden could travel to Latin America to take advantage of the Venezuelan and Nicaraguan offers.

U.S. authorities have charged Snowden with espionage for leaking secret details about U.S. surveillance of global telephone and Internet data. Washington has called for him to be handed over for prosecution.

No U.S. comment was immediately available about the Venezuelan and Nicaraguan offers.

President Nicolas Maduro said Venezuela was ready to grant "humanitarian" asylum so Snowden could avoid prosecution in the United States.

President Daniel Ortega said Nicaragua would be willing to give asylum to the 30-year-old Snowden "if circumstances permit" it.

Ortega said Nicaragua had received an asylum application for Snowden at its embassy in Moscow.

Earlier on July 5, the antisecrecy WikiLeaks organization said Snowden has applied to six countries for asylum.

WikiLeaks declined to identify the countries, saying it was worried about U.S. "interference" that could scupper any asylum offers.

Snowden has applied for asylum in upward of 20 countries but has been rejected by several European countries, as well as by India and Brazil.

The offers from Venezuela and Nicaragua come amid outrage in Latin American countries after the Bolivian president’s plane was denied airspace rights by some European countries over reports that Snowden may have been on board the aircraft.

Bolivia has accused France, Portugal, Italy, and Spain of bowing to U.S. pressure regarding the plane, which eventually landed in Austria before flying back to Bolivia.

Snowden, a former contractor with the U.S. National Security Agency, flew first to Hong Kong before fleeing to Moscow.

Documents leaked by Snowden have revealed that the National Security Agency has access to vast amounts of global Internet and telephone data, and has conducted spying operations against the European Union and other targets.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AFP, and AP
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