US authoritIes have issued a provisional arrest warrant and filed espionage and other charges against former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who exposed secret US surveillance programmes, a US official has told AFP news agency.

Confirming a report in the Washington Post newspaper, the US official said that a sealed criminal complaint had been lodged with a federal court in the US state of Virginia and a provisional arrest warrant had also been issued.

Snowden was charged with theft of government property, unauthorised communication of national defence information and willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorised person, the document said.

Snowden is reported to be in hiding in Hong Kong, and the US has also asked Hong Kong to detain Snowden on the provisional arrest warrant, the Washington Post newspaper reported, citing unnamed US officials.

The criminal complaint was filed in the Eastern District of Virginia, where Snowden's former employer, Booz Allen Hamilton, is located, the Post reported.

Troves of documents leaked by Snowden revealed that US security services had monitored data about phone calls from Verizon and Internet data from large companies such as Google and Facebook as part of counterterrorism efforts.

Meanwhile, an Icelandic businessman linked to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks said on Thursday he had readied a private plane in China to fly Snowden to Iceland if Iceland's government would grant asylum.

Iceland refused on Friday to say whether it would grant asylum to Snowden.

Source: Agencies