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Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-07-04

France has rejected an asylum request from National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, the interior ministry says. Snowden has requested asylum in 21 nations after leaking intelligence on US surveillance programmes.

France has rejected an asylum request from National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, the interior ministry says.

"Like many countries, France received a request for asylum from Mr. Edward Snowden through its embassy in Moscow. Given the legal analysis and the situation of the interested party, France will not agree," the interior ministry said in a statement.

Snowden has requested asylum in 21 nations after leaking intelligence on US surveillance programmes.

The French move comes as European Union ambassadors met in Brussels to find a common stance on the allegations of US spying on EU offices, as Germany insisted a huge EU-US trade deal remained the "highest priority".

The snooping claims have sparked outrage across the bloc, casting a pall over long-awaited EU-US talks on a free trade deal worth billions expected to give a much-needed boost to the debt-wracked eurozone.

Threat to EU-US trade talks?

The closed-door discussions between the EU ambassadors are expected to last for hours, senior diplomatic sources said.

They come a day after Berlin and Paris struck a note of discord over how to proceed with the trade talks, with France pushing for a delay while Germany said they should go ahead next week as planned.

EU Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso eventually announced a compromise: the trade talks would open but run in tandem with working groups tasked with probing the extent of the US spying.

Seeking to limit the fallout from the scandal, US President Barack Obama spoke with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday to address European concerns.

"The president assured the chancellor that the United States takes seriously the concerns of our European allies and partners," according to a readout of the telephone conversation released by Washington.

Merkel's spokesman said she welcomed Obama's announcement that the US would provide information on its surveillance activities, and reiterated that Berlin and Washington were committed to the trade talks.

"The negotiations on the (trade deal) still have highest priority, they are to begin on July 8," Steffen Seibert said in a statement.

Morales row

Reports in the Guardian and Der Spiegel in recent days have detailed widespread covert surveillance by the NSA of EU offices, including diplomatic missions in Washington and at the United Nations in New York, as well as at the 28-member bloc's Brussels headquarters.

The spying row widened on Wednesday after Bolivia accused France, Italy, Portugal and Spain of temporarily denying President Evo Morales's plane overflight rights over suspicions that Snowden was travelling with him.

Morales's plane, returning home from a trip to Moscow, was forced to make an unscheduled stopover in Vienna, where airport police searched the aircraft and confirmed that the fugitive American was not on board.

Morales had earlier said his country would consider giving political asylum to the intelligence leaker, who has been holed up in a Moscow airport.

Bolivia and its regional Latin American allies have responded angrily to the jet diversion, which Morales likened to a "13-hour kidnapping". France has since expressed regret for its role in the incident.

The 30-year-old computer specialist arrived in Moscow from Hong Kong on June 23 in a bid to escape US efforts to have him extradited on espionage charges. He is thought to be hiding out in a Moscow airport.

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

Date created : 2013-07-04


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