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‘No reason’ to reconsider granting Snowden asylum, French minister says

AFP file photo | A demonstrator in Paris holds placards calling for Edward Snowden to be granted asylum.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said Thursday he saw no reason to reconsider France’s 2013 decision to deny Edward Snowden asylum, days after the former NSA contractor said he would be interested in relocating to France.

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Le Drian told CNews television that when Snowden first asked for asylum in 2013, the French government felt it was not "appropriate" and that nothing has since altered that view.

"He asked for asylum in France and also elsewhere in 2013. At that time, France believed it was not appropriate and I don't see anything that has changed today, either from a political point of view or a legal one," Le Drian said.

More than a dozen countries have turned down requests to take in the 36-year-old.

Snowden has been living in Russia to escape US prosecution since June 2013 after leaking classified documents detailing government surveillance programmes. He said in an interview broadcast Monday that he would like French President Emmanuel Macron to grant him the right to live in France.

“I applied for asylum in France in 2013 under [former president François] Hollande and of course we would love to see Macron offer an invitation,” he told France Inter radio from Moscow.

He added that it was sad that the "only place an American whistleblower has the chance to be heard is not in Europe but here [in Russia]".

But Snowden has yet to make another official request for asylum, Le Drian said.

"For now, he has made the request just through the media, but I don't see any reason to change the position [of France]," Le Drian told CNews.

>> Watch FRANCE 24's exclusive interview with Edward Snowden

Snowden’s comments came a day after another member of the French government, Justice Minister Nicole Belloubet, said that she would offer him asylum if it were up to her. France's Élysée presidential palace promptly issued a statement stressing that Belloubet had spoken in a “private capacity”.

A prominent MEP for Macron's ruling party, Nathalie Loiseau, also spoke out in favour of offering Snowden asylum, saying on Monday that he had "rendered a service to humanity".

Though praised as a whistleblower and a privacy advocate by his defenders, the United States accuses him of endangering national security and espionage charges could send him to prison for decades.

Snowden has said he would like to return to the United States but only on the condition that he had a fair trial.

The former NSA contractor's memoir was released in some 20 countries this week, including in France.

The US Justice Department this week filed a lawsuit against Snowden, seeking to prevent him from profiting from his memoirs, entitled, "Permanent Record".

(FRANCE 24 with AP, REUTERS)

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