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Friday, July 5, 2013

Edward Snowden Seeks Citizenship In Iceland

Icelandic lawmakers have introduced a proposal in Parliament that would grant immediate citizenship to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.

Ogmundur Jonasson, whose liberal Left-Green Party is backing the proposal along with the Pirate Party and Brighter Future Party, put the issue before the Judicial Affairs Committee Thursday, but the idea received minimal support.

Snowden is believed to be stuck in a Moscow airport transit area, seeking asylum from more than a dozen countries. At one point, he told the Guardian newspaper that he was inclined to seek asylum in a country that shared his values — and that "the nation that most encompasses this is Iceland."

But to apply for asylum in Iceland, Snowden would have to reach the island nation's soil.

Granting Snowden immediate citizenship would circumvent that issue.

The same tactic helped get eccentric chess master Bobby Fischer to Iceland from Japan in 2005 to escape U.S. prosecution for breaking sanctions imposed on the former Yugoslavia.

Jonasson argued to parliament on Thursday that Snowden "is now being chased and has nowhere to go," according to Icelandic media.

Leaks by Snowden, a former NSA systems analyst, have revealed the NSA's sweeping data collection of U.S. phone records and some Internet traffic, though U.S. intelligence officials have said the programs are aimed at targeting foreigners and terrorist suspects mostly overseas.

The proposal to grant Snowden citizenship received limited support when it was discussed Thursday — the last day before summer recess. Six members of minority parties were in favor out of Parliament's 63 members.

Snowden has applied for asylum in Venezuela, Bolivia and 18 other countries, according to WikiLeaks, a secret spilling website that has been advising him. Like Iceland, many European countries on the list — including Austria, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Switzerland — said he would have to make his request on their soil.

Italy's foreign minister on Thursday said it also could not grant Snowden's asylum request to their country because he is not on their soil. French Interior Minister Manuel Valls told the news agency that France would not process Snowden's request.

"Like many countries France has received, via its ambassador in Moscow, an asylum request from Edward Snowden. For legal reasons and given the applicant's situation, it will not be processed," Valls said in a statement to Reuters.

Meanwhile, Russia is also reportedly losing patience with Snowden. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told Reuters said Snowden should find another place to seek refuge.

"He needs to choose a place to go," Ryabkov told Reuters. "As of this moment, we do not have a formal application from Mr Snowden asking for asylum in the Russian Federation."

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