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Putin sets condition for Snowden asylum

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said if NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden is going to have a shot of gaining asylum in Russia, he'll need to stop sharing America's secrets. Putin also ruled out Snowden's extradition.

Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Putin said the former contractor for the American National Security Agency (NSA) would have to stop divulging secrets about the United States if he planned to stay in Russia.

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Germany seeks answers on US surveillance

"If he wants to go somewhere and there are those who would take him, he is welcome to do that," Putin said in Moscow. "If he wants to stay here, there is one condition: he must stop his activities aimed at inflicting damage to our American partners, no matter how strange it may sound on my lips."

A foreign ministry official quoted by the AFP news agency said Snowden had applied for asylum in Russia on Sunday night. Reports from the Russian news agency Interfax echoed this claim.

Earlier on Monday, a Russian official quoted by the RIA news agency said US President Barack Obama and Putin had ordered their respective security services, the FBI and the FSB, to end the standoff over Snowden. He is currently holed up in a transit area of an airport in Moscow (pictured above).

Putin said on Monday that Russia would not be extraditing Snowden.

"Russia will never extradite anyone anywhere and doesn't plan to start doing so," he said.

Europe demands answers

Snowden's latest leak of information from the NSA has led to a diplomatic spat between the US and the European Union. An article in the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel on Sunday said that the NSA had used phone taps and data surveillance to spy on EU institutions.

EU leaders from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, to French President Francois Hollande, to the president of European Parliament, Martin Schulz, have demanded answers regarding the allegations in the Spiegel story.

Obama, speaking during a press conference in Tanzania on the last leg of his Africa tour on Monday, said the US would provide the information the EU was seeking.

"The Europeans are some of the closest allies that we have in the world. And we work with them on everything, and we share intelligence constantly," he said. "I've asked my team ... to evaluate everything that's being claimed. When we have an answer, we will make sure to provide all the information that our allies want."

Putin said "the fact that the allies are listening in on each other is none of our business."

"Let them do as they wish."

mz/kms (dpa, AP, AFP, Reuters)

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