ARBIL, Iraq (AFP) - The Iraqi Football Association on Sunday decided to postpone elections for its board until further notice amid divisions which threaten to see Iraq barred from international competition.
The election, originally set for Saturday, has been held up because the IFA's governing committee has split into rival camps: one supporting the incumbent president, who has links to executed dictator Saddam Hussein's former regime, and another backing a pro-government challenger.
The former group gathered in the northern city of Arbil, while the latter met in Baghdad.
World football governing body FIFA has threatened to ban Iraq from international play over "governmental interference in the electoral process" of the IFA.
Incumbent president Hussein Said said at the meeting in Arbil, the capital of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, that the IFA's 63 committee members had unanimously agreed to send a letter to FIFA requesting a postponement.
"We authorised representatives of FIFA and the Asian Football Federation to convey the request of the committee, and its desire to postpone the election until further notice," said Said, a former star player.
A long-time deputy to Saddam's son Uday, who headed the IFA and Iraq's Olympic Committee, Said is being sought on corruption charges, along with three other senior IFA officials, by the authorities in Baghdad.
FIFA sent two representatives to monitor elections in Arbil, where about a third of delegates gathered, but the government organised a rival gathering in central Baghdad, where the remaining 40-odd committee members met.
"We will wait until we receive a response from FIFA (about postponing the election)," said Najah Hammud, the IFA's first vice president and Said's rival for the top job, in Baghdad.
"Postponement is the best solution for the moment," he said.
Badr Nassar Abboud, an IFA committee member representing Al-Mina football club in the southern port city of Basra, added: "We think we will receive FIFA's response shortly -- it should not take several days."
Elections to the IFA board are crucial because board members choose the body's president.
On July 18, about 20 soldiers arrived at the IFA's headquarters in Baghdad with an arrest warrant for Said and the three other wanted IFA officials, but none of them was present.
On March 19, FIFA lifted its suspension of the IFA after a solution was found to an earlier spat over alleged interference by the Shiite-dominated government.
The IFA had been suspended in November 2009 after Iraqi police seized control of its offices and its governing board was dissolved on charges of links to Saddam, whose regime was Sunni-led.
Football is highly popular in Iraq, boosted by the national side's victory in the 2007 Asian Nations Cup.
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