Barack Obama jabs Russia, China on failure to extradite Edward Snowden

Barack ObamaUS President Barack Obama (Reuters)

US President Barack Obama said on Thursday he would not start "wheeling and dealing" with China and Russia over a U.S. request to extradite former American spy agency contractor Edward Snowden.

Obama, who appeared concerned that the case would overshadow his three-country tour of Africa begun in Senegal, also dismissed suggestions that the United States might try to intercept Snowden if he were allowed to leave Moscow by air.

"No, I'm not going to be scrambling jets to get a 29-year-old hacker," he told a news conference in Dakar, a note of disdain in his voice. Snowden turned 30 last week.

Obama said regular legal channels should suffice to handle the U.S. request that Snowden, who left Hong Kong for Moscow, be returned to the United States.

He said he had not yet spoken to China's President Xi Jinping or Russian President Vladimir Putin about the issue.

"I have not called President Xi personally or President Putin personally and the reason is ... number one, I shouldn't have to," Obama said sharply.

"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."

Snowden fled the United States to Hong Kong in May, a few weeks before publication in the Guardian and the Washington Post of details he provided about secret U.S. government surveillance of Internet and phone traffic.

The American, who faces espionage charges in the United States and has requested political asylum in Ecuador, has not been seen since his arrival in Moscow on Sunday. Russian officials said he was in a transit area at Sheremetyevo airport.

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