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Olympic Council of Asia fumes over ´vote-buy´ claims

20 April 2009 05:30

SINGAPORE (AFP) - The Olympic Council of Asia on Monday angrily denied "baseless" accusations that it was involved in "vote-buying" to influence the outcome of elections for a FIFA executive committee seat.

The Council, headed by Kuwait's Sheikh Ahmad Al Sabah, has been asked by FIFA's ethics committee to clarify the claims surrounding an increasingly ugly battle for power within the Asian Football Confederation.

At stake is an Asian seat on the powerful FIFA executive committee, currently held by AFC president Mohamed bin Hammam.

His term ends on May 8 and Bahraini Crown Prince, Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, is challenging him.

In an interview with Australia's SBS television on March 30, Bin Hammam claimed that the OCA, via its national Olympic committees, was offering grants to football associations in Asia to secure their votes for Sheikh Salman.

FIFA decided to look into the allegations after a request to do so, reportedly by Australian broadcaster Les Murray, who conducted the interview with Bin Hammam and who also sits on the ethics committee.

But the OCA said it was untrue and is threatening legal action.

"The OCA has completely and absolutely denied the allegations leveled on it with regard to the rumors concerning the AFC elections," it said in a statement sent to AFP.

The Olympic body said it was asked to clarify its position by the FIFA's ethics committee on April 16.

"The OCA was quick to respond on the very same day denying the baseless accusations and requested FIFA to name the source," it said, adding that FIFA denied to reveal who had made the claims.

"However, subsequently OCA found out ... that the base of these allegations was the interview given by Mr. Bin Hammam, President of AFC to the SBS, an Australian broadcaster on 30th of March 2009."

It added that Bin Hammam "leveled allegations on OCA without any proof, which is a part of his unwise campaign and has a created a division in football in the Asian continent".

"The OCA further expects new accusations and rumors from Bin Hammam till the elections are completed on 8th May which is part of his election strategy.

"Clearly, the OCA cannot leave such accusations unanswered and is now preparing to undertake legal action against these so called 'sources' along with at least 15 countries who have also been wrongly implicated."

Qatar's Bin Hammam, accused by his opponents of running the AFC like a dictator, says he will step down as AFC chief if he loses the FIFA seat, despite his term not expiring until 2011.

He was not immediately available for comment on Monday.

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