DAKAR (Reuters) - President Barack Obama said on Thursday he had not yet spoken to Chinese President Xi Jinping or Russian President Vladimir Putin about the U.S. request to extradite former American spy agency contractor Edward Snowden.
Speaking at a news conference in Senegal at the start of an African tour, Obama said normal legal channels should be sufficient to handle Washington’s request that Snowden, who left Hong Kong for Russia, be returned.
“I have not called President Xi personally or President Putin personally and the reason is...number one, I shouldn’t have to,” Obama said.
“Number two, we’ve got a whole lot of business that we do with China and Russia, and I‘m not going to have one case of a suspect who we’re trying to extradite suddenly being elevated to the point where I’ve got to start doing wheeling and dealing and trading on a whole host of other issues,” Obama said.
Snowden has become an embarrassment for the Obama administration after he leaked details of secret U.S. government surveillance programs.
His fate is now the focus of an international wrangle pitting the United States against its frequent opponents in the U.N. Security Council, China and Russia.
Snowden himself remains in limbo at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, where he has been waiting in the transit area since his arrival on Sunday. He had been expected to fly to Havana on Monday en route to Ecuador, where he has asked for asylum.
In the Ecuadorean capital of Quito, the government said it had not processed Snowden’s asylum request because he had not reached any of its diplomatic premises.
Bristling at suggestions Quito was weighing the pros and cons of Snowden’s case in terms of its own interests, officials also said Ecuador would waive its preferential trade rights under a soon-to-expire treaty with the United States.
Reporting by Jeff Mason and Mark Felsenthal; writing by Mike Collett-White