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Snowden to meet human rights groups - official

Snowden has reportedly not left the airport transit area despite offers of asylum from three countries.

US National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, an analyst with a US defence contractor during an interview with the Guardian in Hong Kong. Picture :AFP

MOSCOW - Former US intelligence contractor Edward Snowden will meet human rights groups on Friday at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport, where the fugitive contractor has been in the passenger transit area since he flew from Hong Kong.

"I can confirm that such a meeting will take place," said an airport spokeswoman, adding that the meeting would take place in the second half of the day.

Snowden, wanted by Washington on espionage charges for divulging details of secret US surveillance programmes, flew to Moscow on June 23, and has not left the airport transit area despite offers of asylum from three countries.

Human rights groups Transparency International and Amnesty International confirmed they had received emails inviting them to a meeting at the airport.

"Yes, I have received a brief email. It said that he would like to meet with a representative of a human rights organisation - there was not much information there." said Sergei Nikitin, the head of Amnesty International Russia.

President Vladimir Putin has said Snowden should choose a final destination and go there as soon as possible, but it is unclear how he would get to any of the Latin American countries that have offered him asylum.

US, CHINA DISAGREE OVER SNOWDEN

Meanwhile, senior US and Chinese officials sharply disagreed on Thursday over China's handling of fugitive Edward Snowden.

In remarks after high-level political and economic talks, the United States said it was disappointed that Chinese authorities did not send Snowden, on the run in Hong Kong, back to face US justice.

"We were disappointed with how the authorities in Beijing and Hong Kong handled the Snowden case, which undermined our effort to build the trust needed to manage difficult issues," US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns said.

China's State Councilor Yang Jiechi said Hong Kong's actions were in accordance with the law. "Its approach is beyond reproach," he said about the decision to not detain Snowden.

The disagreement soured the two-day US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue meetings in Washington.

Snowden left Hong Kong for Moscow, where he is believed to be stuck in the transit area of the city's international airport, amid speculation he might board a flight to travel to Latin America where he has been offered asylum.

The US government has charged Snowden with disclosing details about secret US surveillance programs the Obama administration considers vital for national security.