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Page last updated at 19:49 GMT, Thursday, 19 February 2009

Israeli Ram given visa for Dubai

Andy Ram
Ram won the 2008 Australian Open with fellow Israeli Jonathan Erlich

Israel's Andy Ram has been given a visa to play in next week's Dubai Championships, after compatriot Shahar Peer was denied entry this week.

Dubai is in the United Arab Emirates, which does not have diplomatic relations with Israel.

Doubles specialist Ram was waiting to hear if he would suffer the same fate as Peer for next week's men's event.

The ATP, governing body of men's tennis, said the UAE government had made "the right decision".

"I am pleased that the efforts to secure Andy Ram's visa to compete in the ATP World Tour 500 event in Dubai next week have been successful," said Adam Helfant, ATP chief executive.

"The United Arab Emirates government has made the right decision in allowing Andy Ram to enter their country and compete in next week's Dubai Tennis Championships.

"No player who qualifies to play an ATP World Tour event should be denied their right to compete on the basis of ethnicity, nationality or religion and we are happy that the Dubai Tennis Championships and the UAE have shown that they share that view."

Ram said: "I am pleased that the UAE have confirmed that I will be able to travel to their country to compete in the Championships.

"As a professional player I thrive on competing at the world's best events and next week will be no different.

"I want to thank everyone involved for their support over the last week.

"My focus is now on my tennis and ensuring that I can perform to the best of my abilities on court and I am very much looking forward to doing that in Dubai next week."

It is a victory for sport as a whole and the power of sport to bring people together

Shahar Peer

Peer said: "This is a great victory for the principle that all athletes should be treated equally and without discrimination, regardless of gender, religion, race or nationality.

"It is also a victory for sport as a whole and the power of sport to bring people together."

Tensions are high in the region after last month's hostilities in the Gaza Strip, and Israeli citizens are usually only allowed into the country if they have dual nationality or there are exceptional circumstances.

The tournament - one of the most prestigious on the calendar with more than 1.4m in prize money - released a statement earlier in the week saying the decision to deny Peer a visa was taken for security reasons.

The WTA, governing body of women's tennis, is considering its options after Peer was banned from entering Dubai, one of which is to remove the tournament from the 2010 calendar.

And WTA chief executive Larry Scott has called a board meeting for Friday to discuss possible punishments.

He said: "The fact they [the UAE] fixed their policy going forward doesn't make it OK what happened last week and those issues need to be addressed.

"There will still be very significant sanctions on the tournament for denying a player entry for no good reason."

Like the WTA, the ATP's policy is that no player can be denied entry into a tournament for which he has qualified by ranking.

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