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FIFA to Lift Ban on Iran
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FIFA, the world soccer's ruling body has decided to lift its international ban on Iran, FIFA president Sepp Blatter announced on Sunday.

FIFA's decision came after 11th hour talks before Tuesday's draw for the 2007 Asian Cup finals.

"We have reached an agreement with the Iran football federation that will allow Iran to participate in the draw for the Asian Cup," Blatter told reporters. "It comes into effect from tomorrow. I put an embargo on it for today but I know you will not respect it. I hope our Iranian friends won't mind."

FIFA's executive committee suspended Iran from all international competitions last month due to government interference in running the country’s game.

A solution had looked beyond both sides with Blatter describing how FIFA had received "alarming phone calls" from the Middle-Eastern nation.

However, emergency talks with the Islamic Republic of Iran Football Federation (IRIFF) involving FIFA and Asian Football Confederation chief Mohamed Bin Hammam yielded a breakthrough.

"I am grateful that the government of Iran understands that we are not interfering in national politics," Blatter said before Sunday's Club World Cup final in Yokohama. "If you are part of the FIFA family then you have to observe FIFA regulations. I am also grateful to Mohamed Bin Hammam who acted as the moderator in this case."

FIFA's ban came only five months after Iran took part in the World Cup in Germany and only a week after they secured a place in next year's Asian Cup finals.

Iran's under-23 team were allowed to participate at this month's Asian Games in Doha as a concession but FIFA's suspension provoked fury in soccer-mad Iran.

Kenya was also banned in October for failing to honor agreements and for chaos crippling the African nation's troubled federation.

(China Daily December 18, 2006)

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