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Friday, 8 September, 2000, 09:26 GMT 10:26 UK
Olympic officials denied entry
John Howard
Australian Prime Minister is in a row over Olympic visas
Australian authorities have banned two top Olympic officials from entering the country.

Gafur Rakhimov, a powerful boxing figure and member of the Uzbekistan National Olympic Committee, and an unnamed International Federation member were stopped entering the country by immigration officials.

The ban has upset the International Olympic Committee (IOC) who have demanded an explanation from Australian Prime Minister John Howard.

IOC director general Francois Carrard complained that the ban had broken an agreement signed with the IOC, allowing entry to all members of the 'Olympic family.'

He said: "We have asked for an explanation for the reasons from the Prime Minister."

Rakhimov, a senior official with the International Amateur Boxing Federation and a vice-president of the Asian Olympic Council, has reportedly been investigated by the FBI over links to Russian organised crime.

Security

ABC television in Australia said he was refused entry to the country for security reasons.

Under the rules of the IOC, accreditation for the Games acts as a visa for the host country.

However Australia's Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock told reporters in Sydney he could not confirm the identity of the people or confirm how many had been stopped but he said it was done for security reasons.

"We are dealing with serious issues of character. We are not making capricious decisions. We don't take decisions lightly.

Information

"You don't negotiate matters of this sort. But if there is further information that might clarify the matter or present the matters and issue in a different way obviously further applications can always be considered.

"But it would be against the facts as I have put them to you."

IOC executive board member Dick Pound said under IOC rules, host cities were supposed to let all accredited officials into a country.

"In general, you are supposed to let everyone in. We had the Games in Atlanta in 1996 and they had to let the Libyan team in. It's part of the deal."

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