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Asia May Lose 2018 World Cup: Blatter
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Asia may lose its automatic right to host the 2018 World Cup under a plan being considered by FIFA, its president said on Sunday.

Sepp Blatter said the world governing body was considering scrapping its policy of rotating the tournament between its regions after the 2014 event in South America.

"We haven't yet decided the rotation of the World Cup after 2014," Blatter said.

He added that FIFA's executive committee will make a decision after deciding who will host in 2014.

Asia hosted the 2002 edition of the tournament, which was held in Europe this year.

South Africa are the 2010 hosts, South America will hold it in 2014 but Blatter said the 2018 tournament could be thrown open to worldwide bidding.

"There are so many continents in the starting blocks to organize a World Cup in this region and also out of this region," he said.

Blatter added that Brazil, the only country to declare a bid for the 2014 World Cup, was doing its best to meet FIFA's criteria.

"I'm sure they're doing everything possible to get this," he said.

He has previously warned Brazil that FIFA may look "further north" if its stadiums, transport and safety standards cannot reach the required level.

Blatter also said FIFA has decided to lift Iran's suspension from international football, making it eligible for next week's Asian Cup draw.

Blatter said emergency talks had yielded a deal with authorities in Iran, which was suspended last month over government meddling.

"We reached an agreement with the football federation of the Islamic Republic of Iran and we will say yes, Iran can participate in the draw for the Asian Cup of Nations," Blatter told a press conference. "This is a good outcome where football has shown its intentions when it comes to interference," Blatter said.

The news comes as a huge relief to Iran after its ban for political interference and not adhering to FIFA's statutes on football associations' independence.

The suspension was provisionally lifted for the Asian Games, where the defending champions were knocked out in the semi-finals, after what Blatter described as "alarming phone calls" from Tehran.

(China Daily December 19, 2006)

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