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Snowden withdraws Russian asylum bid after Putin says he must 'stop harming' US

Russian president Vladimir Putin had offered Snowden asylum but on the condition that he agreed to stop leaking U.S. secrets. Snowden has dropped his bid for asylum there. NBC's Jim Maceda reports.

MOSCOW - NSA leaker Edward Snowden withdrew a request for political asylum in Russia after President Vladimir Putin said he should stop "harming our American partners," a government spokesman said on Tuesday.

Dmitry Peskov, Putin's spokesman, told Reuters that Snowden was in the transit area of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport and had not crossed through passport control onto Russian territory.

Snowden left the U.S. for Hong Kong before he allegedly leaked details of U.S. surveillance programs and was charged with espionage. He traveled to Moscow eight days ago. 

On Monday, Putin said Snowden could stay in Russia on one condition.

"He must stop his work aimed at harming our American partners, as strange as that sounds coming from my lips," he told reporters in Moscow. "He must choose a country of destination and go there. Unfortunately, I don't know when this will happen."

Putin said Russia was not working with Snowden but also did not plan to give him  to the United States.

On Tuesday, Russia also said that Snowden had applied for asylum in 15 countries, not 21 as had been claimed by anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks. There was no immediate explanation for this discrepancy.  

The U.S. does not have an extradition treaty with Russia, but President Barack Obama has noted that Snowden traveled to Moscow without legal papers and referred to "high-level" discussions between the two countries about the case.

While speaking in Tanzania Monday, President Barack Obama addresses a report that the U.S. spied on European Union allies.

"We are hopeful that the Russian government makes decisions based on the normal procedures regarding international travel and the normal interactions that law enforcement have," Obama said.

It was thought that Snowden would eventually head for Ecuador, but the president of the South American country said this week that no asylum request was sent and suggested Russia would make the call on when Snowden could leave and where he would go.

Also on Tuesday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said Snowden had not applied for asylum in that country, although he added the world community should support the former CIA contractor’s work exposing “the imperialist elite of the United States.”

"They spy on friend and  foe," he told reporters after a gas exporters' conference in Russia. "They have created a semi-Orwellian system."

In a statement released late Monday through WikiLeaks, Snowden said the White House was pressuring other countries to deny him asylum.

"The Obama administration has now adopted the strategy of using citizenship as a weapon," his statement said. "This kind of deception from a world leader is not justice, and neither is the extralegal penalty of exile. These are the old, bad tools of political aggression. Their purpose is to frighten, not me, but those who would come after me."

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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