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Page last updated at 15:50 GMT, Thursday, 24 July 2008 16:50 UK

Iraq banned from Beijing Olympics

Haider Nawzad and Hamza Hussein rowing on the River Tigris
Seven Iraqi athletes from five different sports qualified for the Olympics

Athletes from Iraq have been banned from taking part at this summer's Beijing Games, the International Olympic Committee has announced.

The team was already the subject of an interim ban after the Iraqi government replaced the country's Olympic committee with its own appointees.

Under the IOC charter, all committees must be free of political influence.

Iraq had been planning to send a team of at least seven athletes to the Olympics which start on 8 August.

Two rowers, a weightlifter, a sprinter, a discus thrower, a judoka and an archer were in the frame for the trip to Beijing.

"The deadline for taking up places for Beijing for all sports except athletics has now passed," said IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies.

"The IOC very sadly has now to acknowledge that it is likely there will be no Iraqi presence at the Beijing Olympic Games, despite our best efforts."

She added: "Clearly, we'd very much like to have seen Iraq's athletes in Beijing.

"We are very disappointed that the athletes have been so ill-served by their own government's actions."

The four Iraqi athletes that qualified could have competed under the Olympic flag

BBC Radio 5 Live's Gordon Farquhar
Hussein al-Amidi, the general secretary of the Iraqi Olympic Committee, said: "This morning we were informed of the final decision of the International Olympic Committee to suspend the membership of the Iraqi Olympic Committee.

"It's a final decision, there is no way to appeal. This means that Iraq will not take part in the coming Olympic games.

"It is a blow to Iraq and its international reputation, its athletes and its youth.

"I swear those athletes who have been training - they phoned me today and they were crying and were very upset."

The Iraq government dissolved the National Olympic Committee in May and the interim IOC ban was put in place on 4 June.

Davies added that the Iraqi government had been asked to travel to Switzerland to meet the IOC to discuss possible remedies but failed to do so.

The committee which the government dismissed was elected in 2004, in line with the Olympic movement's regulations.

The Iraqi government said it took the decision to appoint a new committee because the previous one was corrupt and had not been functioning properly.

But the move has been widely seen as another example of Shia officials wresting administrative power from Sunnis.

Among the government's claims against the committee was that it was illegitimate because it lacked enough members for a legal quorum.

Four members of the committee, including its chief Ahmad al-Samarra'i, were kidnapped two years ago and their fates remain unknown.

see also
Iraqi athletes face Olympic ban
12 Jun 08 |  Middle East

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