Germany says ready to talk to Snowden but rejects asylum

BERLIN (AFP) - The German government said Friday it would like to talk to US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden in Russia but that he did not meet the requirements for asylum.

After a meeting between a German lawmaker and Snowden in Moscow in which the former NSA contractor offered to provide insider knowledge on US espionage activities, Interior Minister Hans-Peter Friedrich said Berlin was interested.

"If the message is that Mr Snowden wants to give us information, then we would gladly accept," he told reporters.

Amid speculation that Snowden would like to exchange secrets for asylum in Germany, German government spokesman Steffen Seibert said that Berlin had already rejected an asylum request from Snowden earlier this year on the grounds that any applicant must be in the country.

"That is the state of play," he told a news conference when asked whether Germany would offer refuge to Snowden, whose US passport Washington revoked following his extensive intelligence leaks.

An interior ministry spokesman noted that the German government had received an extradition request for Snowden on July 3 should he arrive in Germany and that Berlin has an extradition agreement with Washington.

The German deputy, Hans-Christian Stroebele of the opposition Green party, met with Snowden at a secret location in Moscow Thursday after classified documents indicated that the NSA had tapped the phone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel for several years.

"He proved that he knows many things. He is willing in principle to help shed light" on the spying, Mr Stroebele told public television, adding Snowden declared his willingness to testify in Germany or in Russia.

Mr Stroebele was to hold a news conference later Friday in Berlin and present a letter from Snowden to the German government, parliament and federal prosecutors.

Snowden's lawyer Anatoly Kucherena said Friday that he would not be able to leave Russia to be questioned by German prosecutors but could provide testimony inside the country.