Quito: US President Barack Obama tried to cool the international frenzy over Edward Snowden on Thursday as Ecuador stepped up its defiance against the United States and said it was pre-emptively rejecting millions in trade benefits that it could lose by taking in the fugitive from his limbo in a Moscow airport.
The country seen as likeliest to shelter the National Security Agency leaker seemed determined to prove it could handle any repercussions, with three of its highest officials calling an early-morning press conference to "unilaterally and irrevocably renounce" USD 23 million a year in lowered tariffs on products such as roses, shrimp and frozen vegetables.
Fernando Alvarado, the secretary of communications for leftist President Rafael Correa, sarcastically suggested the US use the money to train government employees to respect human rights.
Obama, meanwhile, sought to downplay the international chase for the man he called "a 29-year-old hacker" and lower the temperature of an issue that has raised tensions between the US and uneasy partners Russia and China.
Obama said in Senegal that the damage to US national security has already been done and his top focus now is making sure it can`t happen again.
"I`m not going to have one case with a suspect who we`re trying to extradite suddenly be elevated to the point where I`ve got to start doing wheeling and dealing and trading on a whole host of other issues, simply to get a guy extradited so he can face the justice system," Obama said at a joint news conference with Senegal`s President Macky Sall.