US says spy swap on security, humanitarian grounds

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The United States said Thursday it agreed on a spy swap with Russia on "national security and humanitarian grounds" as it determined it would gain little by imprisoning Moscow's agents.

"A determination to seek a rapid and comprehensive solution was made on national security and humanitarian grounds," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

"No significant national security benefit would be gained from the prolonged incarceration in the United States of these 10 unlawful agents," he said.

Toner issued the statement after 10 Russian spy suspects pleaded guilty in a New York courtroom, after which prosecutors said they would be swapped for four Western spies from Moscow.

"The United States took advantage of the opportunity presented to secure the release of four individuals serving lengthy prison terms in Russia, several of whom were in poor health," Toner said.

The 10 suspected Russian spies, who were arrested last month, only pled guilty to the lesser charge of acting as an illegal foreign agent and not to the graver money laundering count, which carries a maximum term of 20 years.

© 2010 AFP

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