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Brazil has no plans to grant Snowden asylum

Brazil has no plans to grant asylum to Edward Snowden even after the former U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) contractor on Tuesday offered to help investigate the extent of NSA's spying against the South American country.

The Brazilian government has not received any official request from Snowden since he arrived in Moscow in June, said a Foreign Ministry spokesman.

Without a formal request, asylum will not be considered, the spokesman said.

The Folha de S.Paulo newspaper, citing unnamed government officials, also reported that the government has no interest in investigating the mass Internet surveillance programs Snowden revealed in June and does not intend to give him asylum.

In an open letter published on Tuesday, Snowden, who blew the whistle on the NSA's global surveillance scheme and is wanted in the United States for divulging secret documents, commended the Brazilian government for its strong stand against U.S. spying.

He said he'd be willing to help the South American nation investigate NSA spying on its soil, but could not fully participate in doing so without being granted political asylum, because the U.S. "government will continue to interfere with my ability to speak."

In the letter, Snowden dismissed U.S. explanations to the Brazilian government and others that the bulk of the metadata gathered on billions of emails and calls was more "data collection" than surveillance.

"There is a huge difference between legal programs, legitimate spying ...and these programs of dragnet mass surveillance that put entire populations under an all-seeing eye and save copies forever," he said in the letter.

"These programs were never about terrorism: they're about economic spying, social control, and diplomatic manipulation. They're about power," he said.

Snowden is currently living in Russia under temporary asylum, which is due to expire in August next year. He had previously requested asylum in Brazil, but that request remained unanswered.

The whistleblower said in the letter that several Brazilian senators had asked him to help investigate U.S. spying on Brazil, but that Washington would continue to try to prevent him from speaking out until he is able to secure permanent asylum.

Soon after the spying revelations were first published in the Guardian in June, documents showed Brazil was a main target of Washington's political and corporate spying, and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff became one of the most outspoken critics of the U.S. spying policy.

In conjunction with the publication of the letter, Snowden's supporters have organized an online drive to gather signatures to pressure Rousseff into giving him asylum.

[Source: Xinhua, Brasilia, 17Dec13]

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