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Snowden hits snags in asylum search

Secrets whistleblower Edward Snowden's best chance of finding refuge may hinge on the president of Venezuela, who is in Moscow meeting president Vladimir Putin.

President Nicolas Maduro said his country has not received an application for asylum from Mr Snowden and dodged the question of whether he would take Mr Snowden away with him. But he also defended the former National Security Agency contractor who released sensitive documents on US intelligence-gathering operations.

"He did not kill anyone and did not plant a bomb. What he did was tell a great truth in an effort to prevent wars. He deserves protection under international and humanitarian law."

Mr Snowden withdrew his bid for asylum in Russia when he learned the terms Moscow had set out, Mr Putin said Russia was ready to shelter him provided he stopped leaking secrets.

Mr Snowden also has applied for asylum in 20 other countries, according to WikiLeaks, a secret spilling website. Several said he cannot apply from abroad. Germany, Norway, Austria, Poland, Finland, Switzerland and Spain all said he must make his request on their soil.

WikiLeaks said requests have also been made to Bolivia, Brazil, China, Cuba, Ecuador, France, Iceland, India, Italy, Ireland, Netherlands, Nicaragua, Spain and Venezuela. India has already refused. WikiLeaks also posted a statement from Mr Snowden in which he criticises president Barack Obama for "using citizenship as a weapon."

"Although I am convicted of nothing, (the United States) has unilaterally revoked my passport, leaving me a stateless person. Without any judicial order, the administration now seeks to stop me exercising a basic right. A right that belongs to everybody. The right to seek asylum. Their purpose is to frighten, not me, but those who would come after me," he says.

Swiss immigration said it would be possible for Mr Snowden to travel there even though the US has cancelled his passport. He would need to apply for a humanitarian visa at a Swiss embassy abroad and it would be granted if his life was in "immediate danger." With the visa he would be allowed to enter Switzerland for three months during which he could formally apply for asylum.

Mr Snowden, who has been on the run since releasing the sensitive NSA documents, has been in the transit zone of Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport since his arrival from Hong Kong on June 23.

The expanded requests for asylum come as the Obama administration talks with European allies angry about the release of documents detailing US eavesdropping on European Union diplomats.

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