Edward Snowden's asylum options narrow

An employee distributes newspapers with a photograph of Edward Snowden seen on a page, at an underground walkway in central Moscow on 2 July 2013 Edward Snowden is reportedly stranded in a Moscow airport transit zone

A growing number of countries have rejected the asylum requests of fugitive intelligence leaker Edward Snowden, as he attempts to avoid extradition to the US.

Several states including Spain said applicants had to be on their soil.

Mr Snowden, who is at Moscow airport, sent requests to 21 countries in total, Wikileaks said, but he later withdrew a request to Russia.

Bolivia's President Evo Morales said he would consider a request.

He told Russian television Bolivia had not yet received an application for asylum, but added: "Bolivia is ready to accept people who disclose espionage if one can call it this way."

'Growing danger of tyranny'

Mr Morales and Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro are in Moscow for a meeting of gas-exporting countries.

Analysis

Vladimir Putin's warning to Mr Snowden that he should stop "harming our American partners" is indicative of a significant shifting of gear. Russia now has ownership of the Snowden affair. What happens to Mr Snowden will depend upon Russia's calculations and what serves Russia's interests.

The authorities in Moscow could have moved Mr Snowden on quickly, joining the diplomatic game of pass-the-parcel that began in Hong Kong. But the longer the errant US intelligence analyst stays in limbo at the Moscow airport, so the more Russia has become a central actor in this drama.

Russia must balance a range of factors in seeking to determine Mr Snowden's fate - the risk of a serious rift with Washington and Russia's own standing as an international actor that upholds the legal order must be set against the strong vein of sympathy for Mr Snowden amongst Russian public opinion.

President Maduro said he had not formally received an asylum request, but expressed support for Mr Snowden saying he "deserves the world's protection" from the United States.

"Why are they persecuting him? What has he done? Did he launch a missile and kill someone? Did he rig a bomb and kill someone? No. He is preventing war," he told Reuters news agency.

Mr Snowden is wanted by the US on charges of leaking secrets he collected while working as a contractor for the National Security Agency (NSA), America's electronic spying agency.

On Tuesday, National Intelligence Director James Clapper apologised for telling Congress in March that the NSA did not have a policy of gathering data on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.

He said in a letter to Dianne Feinstein, head of the Senate intelligence committee, that his answer had been "clearly erroneous".

Meanwhile, the leaker's father, Lon Snowden, is trying to arrange for his son's return to the US under circumstances that would guarantee him fair treatment and a fair trial. He has expressed concern at Wikileaks' influence over his son's situation.

In a letter to his son, given to the BBC, Lon Snowden, along with his lawyer Bruce Fein, praised him for "summoning the American people to confront the growing danger of tyranny".

Asylum requests

  • Rejected: Austria, Brazil, Finland, India, Ireland, Norway, Poland, Spain, Switzerland
  • Withdrawn: Russia
  • Pending: Bolivia, China, Cuba, Ecuador, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Netherlands, Nicaragua
  • Unconfirmed: France, Venezuela

The leaking of thousands of classified intelligence documents has led to revelations that the US is systematically seizing vast amounts of phone and web data.

French President Francois Hollande has called for the European Union to take a common stand over allegations, stemming from the leaks, that Washington is spying on its European allies.

Wikileaks said most of the asylum requests - including to Russia itself - were handed to the Russian consulate at Sheremetyevo airport late on Sunday for delivery to the relevant embassies in Moscow.

Austria, Finland, Ireland, Norway, Poland, Spain and Switzerland said the request was invalid because it was not made from their own territory.

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[The Europeans] are outraged but they are not so angry as to risk their economic interests”

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Brazil's foreign ministry confirmed it had received a request but said that, for the moment, it did not intend to respond.

Mr Hollande said France had not yet received a formal request from Mr Snowden.

Mr Snowden withdrew his application to Russia after President Putin said he could stay on condition that he stopped damaging Russia's "American partners" with his leaks, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Mr Peskov confirmed Mr Snowden had not crossed into Russian territory and was still in the transit area of Sheremetyevo, where he has reportedly stayed since arriving from Hong Kong on 23 June.

Mr Snowden had previously submitted an application to Ecuador, whose embassy in London is sheltering Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, and to Iceland.

Ecuador's President Rafael Correa said Quito would not consider Mr Snowden's asylum request unless he managed to enter an Ecuadorean embassy or arrive in Ecuador itself.

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