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Saturday Aug. 17, 2013 5:19 PM (EST+7)
Palestinians wants Israel banned from soccer for barring delegates

Read more: football, soccer, sport, FIFA, movement and access, freedom of movement, security, Jibril Rajoub, right to enter

RAMALLAH, West Bank, Aug 16 (Ali Sawafta/Reuters) - Palestinian sports supremo Jibril Rajoub has threatened to call for Israel's expulsion from FIFA after it initially denied officials entry to the West Bank for a youth tournament on security grounds.

Israel stopped about a dozen officials accompanying teams from Iraq, Jordan and United Arab Emirates and delegates from the Asian Football Confederation.

However, by Friday evening all except one were cleared to enter, a Palestinian soccer official said.

At the next FIFA Congress the Palestinian FA is planning to ask for Israel's expulsion in response to its violations against Palestinian sport, said FA chief Rajoub ahead of the start of the tournament at the weekend.

An Israeli security official who declined to be identified told Reuters earlier on Friday that some of the delegates were denied entry to the West Bank on security grounds but would not elaborate.

Israeli officials were not available to comment later on what prompted the change of heart.

The tournament was due to start on Thursday but will now get underway on Sunday.

Western-backed Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has self-rule in some areas of the West Bank but Israel retains overall military control of the territory and can impose travel restrictions on those wishing to enter or leave.

Last month Sepp Blatter, president of soccer's governing body FIFA, said during a visit to the region that he would establish a task force to address Palestinian concerns over travel restrictions.

It is expected to convene next month in Switzerland.

The Israeli FA said it would help all it could to ensure players on the list submitted by the Palestinians would be allowed to enter but that it would not intervene in or challenge the considerations of Israeli security bodies.

It added that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had informed Blatter of this when the two met in Jerusalem last month.

This week Israel and the Palestinians resumed U.S.-brokered peace talks after a three-year breakdown although neither side has expressed a lot of optimism for a major breakthrough.

Rajoub raised the issue of the travel of Palestinian athletes at the last FIFA Congress in Mauritius in June when he said that if the matter was not resolved satisfactorily, he would call on delegates at the next Congress to expel Israel.

The 64th FIFA Congress takes place in Sao Paulo, Brazil on June 10-11, 2014.

The Palestinians have long been angry at Israel's security forces for restricting movement of athletes between the Gaza Strip and the occupied West Bank, territories they want for a future state.

Abdel-Majid Hajeh of the Palestine FA told Reuters that despite Friday's move, his organization remained dissatisfied with travel arrangements and was likely to press ahead with its call to expel Israel from FIFA. (Additional reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi in Gaza and Ori Lewis in Jerusalem, editing by Tony Jimenez)






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