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Edward Snowden to Venezuela? Bolivia? Chatter about asylum sites morphing.

Asylum options for leaker Edward Snowden keep narrowing. Even countries that don't mind poking the US aren't necessarily ready to take him in.

By Staff writer / July 2, 2013

Russia's President Vladimir Putin, right, and Venezuelian President Nicolas Maduro walk before a news conference in the Kremlin in Moscow, Tuesday, July 2.

RIA Novosti, Alexei Nikolsky, Presidential Press Service/AP

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Washington

The escape hatches open to Edward Snowden closed one by one Tuesday as many of the countries to which he applied for asylum took themselves out of the running.

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Despite Mr. Snowden’s insistence in at least some of his letters seeking asylum that he could face the death penalty if returned to the US, most of the 20 countries he petitioned have said “no” – either outright, or because they said asylum could be considered only for individuals on their soil.

The leaker of US government secrets remains stuck in a kind of diplomatic limbo in the transit section of Moscow’s international airport, where he has been holed up since June 23, when he arrived on a flight from Hong Kong.

With Snowden’s asylum options narrowing, attention is returning to the high-level discussions that Russian and US officials say continue between their two countries. Secretary of State John Kerry said the topic of Snowden came up only briefly in a meeting he had Tuesday with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in Brunei. The Snowden case, he said, is not strictly speaking a matter for either the State Department or Russia’s Foreign Ministry to handle.

Speculation has shifted on a nearly daily basis as to where Snowden – a former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor who divulged information on secret US spy and information-gathering programs – might end up. After Ecuador it was Russia’s turn Monday – until Russian President Vladimir Putin publicly told Snowden he would have to stop disseminating damaging information about the US if he wanted to remain in Russia.

Snowden promptly scratched Russia from his list.

On Tuesday, all eyes shifted to Venezuela, since Venezuelan President – and sharp US critic – Nicolás Maduro happened to be in Moscow for a meeting of oil-producing countries.

Hopping a ride on Mr. Maduro’s plane back to Caracas would supposedly have allowed Snowden to circumvent restrictions on his freedom of movement following the US revocation of his passport while he was still in Hong Kong.

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