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FIFA Threatens To Ban Iraq From International Soccer

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ZURICH — Iraq faces suspension from world soccer if it does not restore the disbanded national federation by Thursday.

World governing body FIFA said Tuesday it was "incomprehensible" for Iraq's Olympic committee to dissolve the national soccer authority's ruling board on Monday.

Iraqi Olympic officials alleged that the soccer federation had committed financial and administrative irregularities and repeatedly delayed elections.

"The basis on which such a decision could be taken is incomprehensible to FIFA," the governing body said in a statement. "This stands in total contradiction with (Iraqi federation) and FIFA statutes."

Iraqi Olympic board member Samir al-Moussawi said it would stand by the decision.

"We will send a letter to FIFA in order to further explain our position," al-Moussawi told The Associated Press. "We had hoped that FIFA officials would have contacted us instead of threatening to suspend our participation in football."

FIFA rules seek to protect soccer officials from government interference.

FIFA can ban national teams and officials, including referees, from taking part in international matches and events even if they are not to blame for government meddling.

Iraq has been told to restore the federation within 72 hours or FIFA's emergency panel will rule on the case.

The deadline allows 93rd-ranked Iraq to play the United Arab Emirates in an exhibition Wednesday in Al Ain City.

Iraqi soccer has had a troubled relationship with FIFA since its popularity peaked with a victory in the 2007 Asian Cup.

Last year, FIFA imposed a ban on Iraqi teams after the government dissolved the national Olympic committee, along with all sports federations.

The ban threatened Iraq's participation in World Cup qualifiers but was lifted after the government assured FIFA that soccer was excluded from the decision.

Last month, FIFA granted the Iraq Football Association until April 30, 2010, to adopt new statutes and elect a new board, stressing that the process had to be independent and free of government interference.


Associated Press Writer Sameer N. Yacoub in Baghdad contributed to this report.

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