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Last Updated: Sunday, 29 June, 2003, 15:42 GMT 16:42 UK
Afghanistan back in Olympics
Afghan boxer, during the Taleban regime
Under the Taleban, sportsmen were not allowed to shave
Olympic bosses have cleared the way for Afghanistan to compete at the Games in Athens next year.

Afghanistan was suspended from the Olympics in 1999, partly because of the Taleban's ban on the participation of women athletes.

It also stemmed from the fact that the country's rulers were not recognised internationally.

But the International Olympic Committee (IOC), meeting in Prague, on Sunday decided to lift Afghanistan's suspension.

Since the end of the Taleban regime in 2001, the IOC has been helping Afghanistan build a new national Olympic committee.

Afghanistan could return to the games in time for the 2004 Olympics in Athens, said Executive Director for the Olympic Games Gilbert Felli.

"Either they will come by qualifying or via some sort of wildcard. Either way, we hope to have some Afghan athletes in Athens," said Mr Felli.

Dress code

Afghanistan last competed at the 1996 games in Atlanta with a team of more than 30 athletes.

Afghan authorities say the country could send competitors in wrestling, boxing, taekwondo, track and field.

Afghan boxers were unable to compete internationally under Taleban rule, because the Taleban banned men from shaving their beards. International boxing rules require contestants to be clean-shaven.

The IOC is also recommending full recognition be given to East Timor, which became a fully independent nation last year.

After East Timor voted for independence from Indonesia in 1999, the IOC allowed a symbolic four-member team to take part in the 2000 Sydney Olympics as "independent Olympic athletes".

The country has complied with the Olympic Charter after it was affiliated by five international sports federations.

Formal recognition of East Timor will ratified later this week by all the members of the IOC.

Taleban furious over Olympic 'snub'
26 Aug 00  |  South Asia
IOC rejects Taleban plea
18 Aug 00  |  South Asia

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