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Obama Won't Meet One-On-One With Putin

August 07, 2013

U.S. President Barack Obama has confirmed that he will attend a G20 summit in Russia but will not hold one-on-one talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said on August 7 that Russia's decision last week to grant temporary asylum to fugitive U.S. leaker Edward Snowden had put additional strains on the the bilateral relationship.

Rhodes said, 'it was the unanimous view of the president and his national security team that a summit did not make sense in the current environment.'

The announcement comes after Obama had earlier indicated that he was 'disappointed' that Moscow is sheltering Snowden.

Washington wants to try Snowden, a former analyst contractor for the National Security Agency, on espionage charges for revealing large-scale U.S. Internet- and phone-surveillance programs.

Obama, who appeared on August 6 on NBC television's 'Tonight Show with Jay Leno,' said that while surveillance programs should not violate the right to privacy, they remain instrumental in preventing terrorist attacks.

'This intelligence gathering that we do is a critical component to counterterrorism,' Obama said.

'Obviously, with Mr. Snowden and the disclosures of classified information it has raised a lot of questions for people but what I said as soon as it happened I continue to believe in, which is a lot of these programs were put in place before I came in. I had some skepticism and I think we should have healthy skepticism about what government's doing.'

'Cold War Mentality'

Obama added that the case highlighted the difficulties in relations with Moscow.

'I was disappointed because even though we don't have an extradition treaty with them, traditionally we have tried to respect if there is a lawbreaker or an alleged lawbreaker in their country, we evaluate it and we try to work with them,' he said.

'They didn't do that with us. And in some ways it's reflective of some underlying challenges that we've had with Russia lately.'

Last week, Russia granted Snowden asylum for one year. He had been stuck at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport since June 23, when he arrived in Russia from Hong Kong.

During his television appearance, Obama said that Russia sometimes slipped into 'a Cold War mentality,' and 'there's no reason why we shouldn't be able to cooperate more effectively than we do.'

Obama confirmed he would attend the G20 summit this fall in St. Petersburg despite Moscow and Washington's current differences.

'I will be going to that because the G20 summit is the main forum where we talk about the economy, the world economy, with all the top economic powers in the world,' he said.

'So it's not something unique to Russia. They're hosting it this year, but it's important for us, as the leading economy in the world, to make sure that we're there.'

'No Patience' For Discrimination

Obama also criticized Russia over a recent law criminalizing the dissemination of information about homosexuality to minors, which critics say could legitimize widespread discrimination.

'When it comes to universal rights, when it comes to people's basic freedoms, that whether you are discriminating on the basis of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, you are violating basic morality that I think should transcend every country,' Obama said.

'I have no patience for countries that try to treat gays or lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them.'

However, the president said Moscow was being cooperative with the United States on some issues, including Afghanistan and counterterrorism efforts in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing.

In response to Obama's declining to meet individually with Putin in Washington, the Kremlin said Russia was 'disappointed' by the decision, saying the decision shows that the United States is still not ready for relations 'on an equal basis' with Russia.

With reporting by AP and Reuters

Source: obama-snowden/25068620.html

Copyright (c) 2013. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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