US talks with Russia on Snowden ongoing: White House

The United States is in ongoing discussions with Russian authorities over the fate of fugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden, White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday.

Carney, briefing reporters traveling with US President Barack Obama to Africa, reiterated Washington's wish to see Snowden -- currently in the transit area of a Moscow airport -- expelled to face espionage charges.

"We are having conversations with Russian government officials. I'm not at liberty to get into the details of those conversations, but we're having the conversations," Carney said, without saying which officials were involved.

"There are a variety of people in our government and the Russian government under whose jurisdiction these issues fall," he said.

The 30-year-old Snowden, a former contractor for the National Security Agency who revealed details of sweeping US surveillance programs to gather phone and Internet data, has not been seen since arriving in Moscow on Sunday.

Russia says Snowden -- who has asked Ecuador to grant him asylum -- is still in a transit zone at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport.

Carney said there was "significant and improved cooperation with the Russian government on matters of law enforcement," especially after the Boston bombings, and that there was a "clear, legal basis" for Snowden's expulsion.

"We continue to make our case to the Russians and to any other countries that may serve as a place of transit of a final destination," State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said in Washington.

Also in Washington, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel urged Moscow to "do the right thing here and turn Snowden over to the United States."

"He has broken laws," Hagel told a press conference.

Ecuador, which is sheltering WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at its embassy in London as he faces extradition to Sweden over allegations of sexual assault, again said it would assess his asylum request "responsibly."

But Quito's embassy in Washington lashed out at what it called "recent statements made by United States government officials containing detrimental, untrue, and unproductive claims about Ecuador."

"This current situation is not being provoked by Ecuador," said the statement from deputy chief of mission Efrain Baus.