(Adds background on Snowden asylum bids, Ortega quote)
MANAGUA, July 5 Nicaragua has received an asylum
request from fugitive former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward
Snowden and could accept the bid "if circumstances permit,"
President Daniel Ortega said on Friday.
"We are an open country, respectful of the right of asylum,
and it's clear that if circumstances permit, we would gladly
receive Snowden and give him asylum in Nicaragua," Ortega said
during a speech in the Nicaraguan capital Managua.
Ortega, an ally of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, did
not elaborate on the conditions that would allow him to offer
asylum to Snowden, who has been at the eye of a diplomatic storm
since leaking high-level U.S. intelligence data last month.
Options have been narrowing for Snowden - believed to be
staying in a transit area at a Moscow airport - as he seeks a
country to shelter him from U.S. espionage charges.
A one-time Cold War adversary of the United States, Ortega
belongs to a bloc of leftist leaders in Latin America that have
frequently taken up antagonistic positions with Washington.
Nicaragua, one of the poorest countries in the Americas, has
benefited greatly from financial support from Venezuela, and
Ortega was a staunch ally of late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.
Chavez's successor Maduro voiced sympathy with Snowden and
described him as a champion of human rights. That suggested
Venezuela may help Snowden, who is stranded in Moscow after
flying there from Hong Kong on June 23, to find a safe haven.
Snowden's bid for Icelandic citizenship hit an impasse
earlier on Friday when the country's parliament voted not to
debate it before the summer recess.
Afterwards, WikiLeaks announced that Snowden had applied to
another six countries for asylum, adding to a list of more than
a dozen countries which he has already asked for protection.
The anti-secrecy organization, which has been supporting
Snowden's efforts to find a safe haven since his exit from Hong
Kong 12 days ago, said on Twitter it could not reveal the names
the countries due to "attempted U.S. interference".
(Reporting by Ivan Castro; Editing by Philip Barbara)