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Obama weighs canceling Moscow talks with Putin

Agencies | Updated: 2013-07-19 07:45

WASHINGTON - The White House is considering canceling a fall summit between President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, a move that would further aggravate the already tense relationship between the two leaders.

Obama weighs canceling Moscow talks with Putin

US President Barack Obama (L) meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin during the G8 Summit at Lough Erne in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland June 17, 2013.[Photo/Agencies]

The White House is dangling that option over the Russians as Moscow considers a temporary asylum petition from Edward Snowden, the American accused of leaking information about classified US intelligence programs. But officials have privately signaled that scrapping the bilateral talks would also be retaliation for other areas of disagreement with Russia, including its continued support for Syrian President Bashar Assad's attacks against civilians.

Regardless of what happens with Snowden, the White House says Obama will still attend an international summit in St. Petersburg, Russia. But officials have gone out of their way in recent days to avoid publicly committing to the meetings in Moscow.

"The president intends to travel to Russia for the G20 Summit," White House spokesman Jay Carney said. "And I have no further announcements to make beyond what we've said in the past about the president's travel to Russia in the fall."

By simply considering cancellation of the trip, the Obama administration is indicating its concern the Kremlin will allow Snowden to take refuge in Russia. The White House has called on Russia to return the 30-year-old former government contractor to the US where he is facing espionage charges.

Snowden, in a temporary asylum request submitted by his lawyer Tuesday, claimed he faces persecution from the US government and could face torture or death.

Andrew Kuchins, director of the Russia program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the White House's cancellation threat could be effective leverage over Putin, who likely wants to avoid an embarrassment on the world stage.

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