Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Exiled footballers warn Iran could exploit World Cup

The Herald:
Three former Iranian national footballers warned Iran may try to exploit the World Cup to spread misinformation about exiled groups opposed to the Tehran government.

"Don't let the Iranian regime misuse the World Cup in the same way that Hitler did with the Olympic Games in 1936," said Hassan Nayeb-Agha, who played for Iran at the 1978 World Cup in Argentina.

He was referring to the Olympics which the Nazis tried to use to showcase their ideals. READ MORE

The players, who represented their country in the 1970s, are members of an exiled opposition organisation.

There have been calls in Germany to ban Iran from taking part in the World Cup, which begins on June 9, after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president, labelled the Holocaust a myth and said Israel should be "wiped off the map".

Angela Merkel, the chancellor, said the remarks were unacceptable and has likened Iran's nuclear plans to the threat posed by the Nazis in their early days. However, she opposed banning the team.

Iran's opening match against Mexico on June 11 is in Nuremberg, a city associated with Nazism. A far-right group, which says it admires Tehran's defiant stance against the West over its nuclear programme, plans to show its support for Iran when they play Angola in Leipzig on June 21.

In Iran yesterday, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, its supreme leader, vowed that the Islamic republic would hit US interests worldwide if it were attacked by the United States.

He made the threat two days before the United Nations nuclear watchdog reports on whether Iran is meeting Security Council demands to halt uranium enrichment.
The United States, backed by Britain and France, has been pushing for sanctions if, as it expects, the International Atomic Energy Agency reports tomorrow that Iran has flouted UN demands.