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US asks Russia to expel Snowden without delay

June 26, 2013 08:26 IST

The Obama administration has asked Russia to "expel" fugitive National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden "without delay", even as it agreed with the Russian President Vladimir Putin that the two countries should avoid a diplomatic showdown over the issue.

Earlier, Putin has said he wished to avoid a diplomatic showdown over Snowden. But he refused to back off his refusal to turn over Snowden to the US.

"We agree with President Putin that we do not want this issue to negatively impact our bilateral relations. While we do not have an extradition treaty with Russia, there is nonetheless a clear legal basis to expel Mr Snowden, based on the status of his travel documents and the pending charges against him," Caitlin Hayden, spokesperson of the National Security Council, White House said on Tuesday.

"Accordingly, we are asking the Russian government to take action to expel Mr Snowden without delay and to build upon the strong law enforcement cooperation we have had, particularly since the Boston Marathon bombing," Hayden said.

Snowden remained for a third day in the transit zone of Sheremetyevo Airport, and Putin said he was out of Moscow's reach since he had not passed through immigration and was, technically, not on Russian territory.

Meanwhile, the State Department said that it does not want to raise the level of confrontation and said that it wants to get it resolved through routine law enforcement channels.

"We have been making our case clearly and we'll continue to do so, that we'd like to see him expelled, and we do think there's a legal basis to do so, and that we've cooperated on a number of these cases previously," State Department spokesperson, Patrick Ventrell, said, adding that in recent past a number of high-level criminals were returned to Russia from the US.

Lalit K Jha in Washington
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