Ecuador could take months to decide whether to grant asylum to fugitive US whistleblower Edward Snowden, its foreign minister has said.
Ricardo Patino compared Mr Snowden's case to that of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been given asylum in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London.
"It took us two months to make a decision in the case of Assange, so do not expect us to make a decision sooner this time," he said.
Asked if Ecuador would provide protection to Mr Snowden while considering his request for asylum, he said that if he "goes to the embassy, then we will make a decision."
Mr Patino refused to say what criteria Ecuador would use to decide, but added that his government would "consider all these risks," including concerns that it would hurt trade with the US and his country's economy.
Mr Snowden, who is charged with breaking American espionage laws, fled Hong Kong over the weekend and flew to Russia. He registered for a Havana-bound flight on Monday en route to Venezuela and then possible asylum in Ecuador, but he did not board the plane.
Russian president Vladimir Putin, who said that Mr Snowden is still in the transit zone of Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport, has rejected US pleas to turn him over.