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Snowden could soon leave Moscow airport: airport source

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, an analyst with a U.S. defence contractor, is seen in this still image taken from video during an interview by The Guardian in his hotel room in Hong Kong June 6, 2013.
Credit: Reuters/Glenn Greenwald/Laura Poitras/Courtesy of The Guardian/Handout via Reuters
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, an analyst with a U.S. defence contractor, is seen in this still image taken from video during an interview by The Guardian in his hotel room in Hong Kong June 6, 2013. Credit: Reuters/Glenn Greenwald/Laura Poitras/Courtesy of The Guardian/Handout via Reuters

MOSCOW | Wed Jul 24, 2013 8:29am EDT

(Reuters) - Former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden has been granted the papers that will allow him to leave the transit area of a Moscow airport where he is holed up, an airport official said on Wednesday.

The official told Reuters that Snowden, who is wanted by the United States for leaking details of U.S. government intelligence programs, would be handed the documents by a lawyer later on Wednesday at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport.

The lawyer "will hand him the papers", said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The immigration authorities declined immediate comment. RIA news agency quoted a border control official as saying said Snowden would be able to leave the transit zone once he received the necessary documents.

Snowden arrived in Sheremetyevo from Hong Kong on June 23 and has requested temporary asylum in Russia until he can safely reach a country that will not send him back to the United States to face espionage charges.

Russia has refused to extradite Snowden and risks further damage to relations with the United States if it grants him temporary asylum. The decision on his temporary asylum request could take up to three months.

(Reporting by Lidia Kelly, Writing by Alexei Anishchuk, Editing by Timothy Heritage)

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