QUITO, Ecuador —
But they also have repeatedly insisted that they are nowhere close to making a decision on whether Snowden can leave Moscow, where he is believed to be holed up in an airport transit zone, for refuge in this oil-rich South American nation.
"It's a complex situation, we don't know how it'll be resolved," Correa told a news conference Thursday in his first public comments on the case aside from a handful of postings on Twitter.
The Ecuadorean leader said that in order for Snowden's asylum application to be processed, he would have to be in Ecuador or inside an Ecuadorean Embassy, "and he isn't." Another country would have to permit Snowden to transit its territory for that requirement to be met, Correa said.
WikiLeaks, which has been aiding Snowden, announced earlier he was en route to Ecuador and had received a travel document. On Wednesday, the Univision television network displayed an unsigned letter of safe passage for him.
Officials on Thursday acknowledged that the Ecuadorean Embassy in London had issued a June 22 letter of safe passage for Snowden that calls on other countries to allow him to travel to asylum in Ecuador. But Ecuador's secretary of political management, Betty Tola, said the letter was invalid because it was issued without the approval of the government in the capital, Quito.
She also threatened legal action against whoever leaked the document, which she said "has no validity and is the exclusive responsibility of the person who issued it."
"This demonstrates a total lack of coordination in the department of foreign affairs," said Santiago Basabe, a professor of political science at the Latin American School of Social Sciences in Quito. "It's no small question to issue a document of safe passage or a diplomatic document for someone like Snowden without this decision being taken directly by the foreign minister or president."