US wants 'clarity' on Snowden status: White House

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States is seeking an explanation from Russia on the status of fugitive US intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden, the White House said on Wednesday.

"We're seeking clarity from Russian authorities about Mr Snowden's status and any change in it," White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One.

He reiterated the US position that Snowden "is neither a human rights activist nor a dissident", adding: "He has been charged with serious felonies for the unauthorized leaking of highly classified information."

"Mr Snowden should be expelled at returned to the United States," Mr Carney said.

He spoke amid conflicting reports from Moscow about whether Snowden would be allowed to leave the transit area of Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport.

Snowden has been marooned at the airport amid an international tug of war set off by his revelations about highly secret US electronic surveillance programmes.

Russian news reports said he had been given a document allowing the former IT contractor to leave the transit area and cross the Russian border, but a lawyer who has been helping him denied that.

"He is staying here... He is here in the transit zone" at the airport, pro-Kremlin lawyer Anatoly Kucherena told reporters after meeting Snowden inside the area.