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China, U.S. Spar Over Intelligence Leaker Snowden

Demonstrators in support of Edward Snowden rally in Paris on July 7.
Officials from China and the United States have sharply disagreed over Beijing's handling of the fugitive U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns said Washington was "very disappointed" that China had not sent Snowden back from Hong Kong to the United States where Snowden is wanted for leaking details of secret U.S. surveillance programs.

"When we encounter differences, or sensitive issues, we need to address them directly in consultation with one another and that is why we were very disappointed with how the authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong handled the Snowden case, which undermined our effort to build the trust needed to manage difficult issues," Burns said.

Chinese State Councilor Yang Jiechni said semi-autonomous Hong Kong had acted according to its laws.

"With regard to the Snowden case, the Central Government of China has always respected the Hong Kong SAR [Special Administrative Region] government's handling of cases in accordance with law. The Hong Kong SAR government has handled the Snowden case in accordance with law, and its approach is beyond reproach," Yang said.

The two were speaking on July 11 after two days of high-level bilateral talks in Washington.

Snowden flew from Hong Kong to Moscow last month.

Snowden is now believed to be stuck in a Moscow airport amid speculation he may fly out to Latin America where a few countries have offered asylum.

On July 11, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua told the AFP news agency that Snowden had yet to formally respond to Venezuela's offer of asylum.

Venezuela along with leftist allies Bolivia and Nicaragua have offered asylum to Snowden.

Foreign ministers from the Mercosur bloc of South American states are preparing for a summit later on July 12 when leaders are expected to respond to allegations Washington spied extensively in the region.

With reporting by AP and Reuters
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