Obama speaks with Putin on Snowden, but no movement

Updated: 2013-07-13 10:09


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WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama raised US concerns directly with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday over Moscow's handling of former US spy agency contractor Edward Snowden, but there was no sign of a breakthrough on Washington's demand that Russia expel him.

Obama and Putin spoke by phone in a discussion that White House spokesman Jay Carney said earlier would largely be about Snowden, who is wanted in the United States for disclosing secret surveillance programs. Carney had accused Russia of providing Snowden a "propaganda platform" to air his complaints about the United States.

Obama speaks with Putin on Snowden, but no movement

Former intelligence agency contractor Edward Snowden (C) and Sarah Harrison (L) of WikiLeaks speak to human rights representatives in Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport July 12, 2013. [Photo/Agencies]

A White House statement about the Obama-Putin call offered no indication that Putin was prepared to send Snowden back to the United States.

"The two leaders noted the importance of US-Russian bilateral relations and discussed a range of security and bilateral issues, including the status of Mr Edward Snowden and cooperation on counter-terrorism in the lead-up to the Sochi Winter Olympics," the statement said. The Sochi Olympics are in 2014.

The high-level contact came during intense diplomatic wrangling over Snowden, who has been holed up in a transit area at a Moscow airport since arriving from Hong Kong on June 23. He is seeking asylum in either Russia or in one of three countries in Latin American that have offered to take him: Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia.

Snowden, 30, is wanted on espionage charges, accused of taking records about secret US surveillance of internet and phone traffic and releasing them to the news media. The disclosures have raised Americans' concerns about domestic spying and strained relations with some US allies.

Putin has so far refused all US entreaties to return Snowden to the United States.

'Doing the right thing'

The case presents Putin with an international headache as he prepares to host Obama and other world leaders at a G20 summit in St Petersburg.

"I can't imagine Mr Putin wants this thing hanging around as it is necessary to get ready for the summit in September," said James Collins, a former US ambassador to Russia who is director of the Russia and Eurasian Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

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