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Monday, May 30, 2011

Bin Hammam leaves race after allegations


GENEVA — Mohamed bin Hammam withdrew from FIFA's presidential election on Sunday, clearing the path for Sepp Blatter to continue his reign as head of world soccer's governing body as it deals with another corruption crisis.

The Qatari challenger to 13-year incumbent Blatter announced his withdrawal before a FIFA ethics hearing, during which he is expected to answer accusations he had arranged bribes for up to 25 presidential voters on a campaign visit to the Caribbean. Blatter and FIFA vice president Jack Warner also are accused of corruption.

The ethics committee had the power to remove Blatter from Wednesday's presidential election, but bin Hammam's withdrawal should clear the way for the 75-year-old Swiss to be re-elected unopposed, as he was in 2007.

"Recent events have left me hurt and disappointed — on a professional and personal level," bin Hammam wrote on his personal website. "It saddens me that standing up for the causes that I believed in has come at a great price — the degradation of FIFA's reputation. This is not what I had in mind for FIFA and this is unacceptable.

"I cannot allow the game that I loved to be dragged more and more in the mud because of competition between two individuals. The game itself and the people who love it around the world must come first. It is for this reason that I announce my withdrawal from the presidential election."

Bin Hammam decided to run for the presidency after playing a key role in Qatar winning the rights to host the 2022 World Cup.

"I pray that my withdrawal will not be tied to the investigation held by the FIFA ethics committee as I will appear before the ethics committee to clear my name from the baseless allegations that have been made against me," bin Hammam said.

At the end of an astonishing week at FIFA's palatial slate and glass headquarters in Zurich, the ethics committee was scheduled to deliver initial findings at 6 p.m. local time Sunday.

The ethics probe opens days of scheduled meetings involving FIFA's 208 national members before their annual Congress on Wednesday.

The ethics panel will examine evidence provided by Chuck Blazer, Warner's American No. 2 at the CONCACAF regional body.

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