The American authorities have asked the Irish government to arrest Edward Snowden if he lands at Shannon Airport en route to Cuba.

Whistleblower Snowden is currently holed up in Moscow airport after applying for asylum in over 20 countries.

Ireland is one of the countries considered for asylum by the 30-year-old who worked as a consultant for the National Security Service.

Now the Irish government has received a request from the US seeking the arrest of Snowden if his plane lands for refuelling at Shannon.

The Irish Times reports that a provisional arrest warrant is now being handled by the Irish police force’s extradition unit in Dublin.

The warrant is a pre-emptive strike against any effort by Snowden to evade US authorities by flying from Moscow to Havana on a commercial flight that stops off at Shannon for refuelling.

Snowden could be arrested under a 1965 Extradition Act and brought before a District Court where a judge could detain him in custody for up to 18 days.

That would allow the American authorities to execute a full extradition process.

Currently in a transit lounge at Moscow airport, Snowden is wanted for questioning in the US after he released information that the US government was engaged in the wholesale interception of email and telephone messages.

The Irish Times says he fled to Hong Kong and then to Russia where his plans to leave the country were scuppered when the US authorities cancelled his passport meaning he could not fly on a scheduled flight.

However security sources in Dublin believe it is unlikely he will travel through Shannon.

A source told the paper: “We would think he’ll stay in Russia for at least a while but the papers are with us now so the option of using Shannon to get to Cuba is probably out for him.”

Snowden cannot make an application for asylum unless he is physically in Ireland but could apply for asylum while being held in prison here on the issue of the American extradition request.