Iceland says Snowden cannot seek asylum from abroad

Edward Snowden, the former U.S. intelligence contractor-turned-whistleblower who has said he plans to seek asylum in Iceland, will not be allowed to file an asylum application from overseas, the Icelandic government said Thursday.

Iceland's Ministry of the Interior said Snowden, who is believed to be in Hong Kong, where he revealed details of the U.S. National Security Agency's surveillance programs, has yet to file a formal asylum application.

"The Ministry of the Interior has not received any formal application regarding Edward Snowden's case," ministry press secretary Johannes Tomasson told Kyodo News by e-mail.

Snowden was reported to have unofficially sought asylum in Iceland through the help of Julian Assange, founder of WikiLeaks.

"We are in touch with Mr. Snowden's legal team and have been, are involved, in the process of brokering his asylum in Iceland," Assange was reported as saying in London on Wednesday.

Tomasson said a representative of the ministry met Kristinn Hrafnsson, a WikiLeaks spokesman, and "went over with him the legislative arrangements regarding asylum seekers and the rules that are in force."

"In order to apply for asylum in Iceland, the individual in question must be present in Iceland and make the application in his or her own name," Tomasson said.

Hong Kong has signed an extradition treaty with the United States, but no official procedure on that has been taken.

Snowden has said he will stay in Hong Kong until he is "asked to leave."

Hong Kong leader Leung Chun-ying said late Thursday the government will continue to follow up with Snowden's case in a legal manner.

"At this stage we have nothing more to say," Leung told reporters. "Having considered both diplomatic protocol and the need for confidentiality, at an appropriate time, we will report to the whole society on the progress of our case handling."

In an interview with a Hong Kong newspaper earlier this month, Snowden said that the U.S. government has been hacking computers in Hong Kong and China since 2009, with targets including Chinese University of Hong Kong, public officials, businesses and students in Hong Kong and the mainland.

The security minister has replied that he received no reports of the computer system at the university being hacked into.