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June 25, 2013

Kerry: US Not Looking for Confrontation with Russia over Snowden

by Scott Stearns

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says Washington is not looking for a confrontation with Moscow over former U.S. intelligence analyst Edward Snowden.  Snowden is in Russia avoiding arrest for disclosing secret details of U.S. government surveillance of telephone and Internet activities.

A day after warning Russia of "consequences" for helping Snowden, Secretary Kerry said there is no need to "raise the level of confrontation."

He is trying to downplay the diplomatic standoff, after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called accusations of Russia violating U.S. laws or conspiring with Snowden "absolutely baseless and unacceptable."  Lavrov says Moscow has nothing to do with Snowden "or with his issues with American law enforcement."

Speaking to reporters in Saudi Arabia, Kerry said that while there is no extradition treaty between Russia and the United States there are what he called "standards of behavior between sovereign nations."

"There is respect for rule of law," said Kerry. "And we would simply call on our friends in Russia to respect the fact that a partner nation, a co-member of the permanent five of the United Nations, has made a normal request under legal systems for law to be upheld."

Kerry says the Obama administration hopes Russia does not see its interests as siding with a person who he calls "a fugitive from justice according to international standards of law."

"They do not have to enforce the law, but they certainly can allow him to be subject to the laws of our land and our constitution, which he is a citizen of," said Kerry. "And that is what we call on them to do.  We are not looking for a confrontation.  We are not ordering anybody."

He says the United States is "simply requesting under a very normal procedure for the transfer of somebody" just as Kerry says the United States transferred to Russia seven people in the past two years.

"Without any clamor.  Without any rancor," said Kerry. "Without any argument and according to our sense of the appropriateness of meeting their request.  And that is what we would hope they will reciprocate with here today."

Meanwhile Tuesday while visiting Finland, Russian President Vladimir Putin dismissed allegations Russia is breaking the law in the case as "nonsense and rubbish.''

Putin said he would not extradite Snowden because he has not broken any laws in Russia. He said Snowden is a free man and the sooner he chooses to move on from a Moscow airport transit area, the better for him and Russia.

Putin said Snowden has never worked with Russian security agencies and he hopes the affair will not affect relations with Washington.

Snowden leaked documents showing that U.S. intelligence services have gathered data for years about patterns of telephone and Internet use.  He said he believes the programs violate the privacy rights of citizens.

Snowden is facing charges of theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information, and the willful communication of classified intelligence information to an unauthorized person, each of which carries a maximum 10-year sentence.