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FIFA ban Iraq from international football

20 November 2009 20:10

PARIS (AFP) - World football's governing body FIFA on Friday announced its decision to suspend the Iraqi Football Association (IFA) until further notice "because of government interference".

"In accordance with FIFA statutes, the clubs and representative teams of Iraq are no longer permitted to take part in international matches, whether friendly or competitive," read a statement on the FIFA website.

"Furthermore, the IFA is deprived of its right to vote at any congresses held by international bodies and is no longer entitled to receive financial assistance."

Despite FIFA's decision, Iraq's women's under-16 team will be allowed to compete in a youth tournament organised by the Norwegian football federation that is due to take place in Jordan from November 22-29.

On Tuesday, FIFA gave the authorities in Baghdad a 72-hour ultimatum to reinstate the IFA or risk suspension from international football.

Police on Wednesday seized control of the IFA's offices after its governing board was dissolved on charges of links to executed dictator Saddam Hussein.

FIFA said that the current members of the IFA's Executive Committee were "the sole recognised interlocutors for FIFA" and called for them to be "rapidly reinstated".

"The measures taken by the Iraqi Olympic Committee and the security forces are unacceptable to FIFA as they stand in total contradiction of IFA and FIFA statutes," the FIFA statement added.

The Iraqi government described the decision as unjust.

"It's an unfair decision (that) was taken without hearing the Iraqi Olympic Committee," government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said.

"We feel that the IFA was behind the decision of FIFA to suspend the Iraqi federation," Dabbagh, who is also responsible for organising IFA elections, told AFP.

"We are going to work with the Iraqi Olympic Committee to apply the national laws in respect of the FIFA regulations.

"FIFA has to respect the positions of the football clubs of Iraq who don't want to accept the executive board of IFA, (which) is involved in corruption and violation of Iraqi laws."

But IFA chief Hussein Saeed said the "FIFA decision was expected after the IOC's decision to dissolve the IFA, which is an illegal approach".

Football is highly popular in Iraq and its importance was boosted by the national side's victory in the 2007 Asian Nations Cup.

FIFA has expressed growing concern about possible political interference in the sport in Iraq. In September, it gave the IFA until April 30, 2010 to elect a new board.

Iraq was briefly suspended from international football in May 2008, after the government dissolved the national Olympic Committee. It was reinstated only after the government said the IFA had not been affected.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) had also suspended Iraq's Olympic Committee from international competition, but that row was resolved shortly before the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Since the overthrow of Saddam in the 2003 US-led invasion, Iraq's new mainly Shiite leadership has taken control of the Olympic Committee and all the other sports federations, except the IFA.

Both the IFA and Olympic Committee were headed by Saddam's elder son, Uday, during the previous regime.

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