Swiss to press U.S. further on Snowden's time in Geneva

GENEVA Thu Jun 27, 2013 10:47am EDT

Edward Snowden, a former contractor at the National Security Agency (NSA), is seen during a news broadcast on television at a restaurant in Hong Kong June 26, 2013. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Edward Snowden, a former contractor at the National Security Agency (NSA), is seen during a news broadcast on television at a restaurant in Hong Kong June 26, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Tyrone Siu

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GENEVA (Reuters) - Switzerland wants to hold further talks with Washington on fugitive Edward Snowden's activities as a CIA operative in Geneva after receiving only a "diplomatic" reply to its initial questions, the Swiss foreign minister said on Thursday.

Snowden, a fugitive former U.S. spy agency contractor who infuriated Washington by leaking details of secret U.S. government surveillance programs worldwide, worked in Geneva between 2007 and 2009.

He remains in limbo at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport, where he has been waiting in the transit area since fleeing there from Hong Kong, where he broke cover earlier this month.

"They (the Americans) have replied that they have been respecting Swiss laws and they have never done anything particularly problematic," Didier Burkhalter told reporters.

"So the reply was very diplomatic, we have taken note of it. We have decided to discuss these points further in the future with the Americans but it's clear that for them there was no problem."

According to the Guardian newspaper, which first identified Snowden as the source of the leaks, he had a "formative" experience during his time with the CIA in the Swiss city.

Snowden told the paper that the CIA deliberately got a Swiss banker drunk and encouraged him to drive home. When the banker was arrested, a CIA operative offered to intervene and later recruited him.

Swiss President Ueli Maurer has said he doubts the version of events printed by the Guardian, but if prosecutors decided to launch a criminal investigation, the Swiss cabinet would approve such a move as a formality.

(Reporting by Tom Miles, Editing by Gareth Jones)

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