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By ESPN Staff

Asian Cup organisers monitor Middle East crisis

TOKYO, July 17 (Reuters) - The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) is closely monitoring the Middle East conflict and hoping next month's Asian Cup qualifiers involving Lebanon and Palestine can go ahead as planned.

'The AFC is shocked and concerned by the current situation in the Middle East region, particularly Lebanon,' the AFC told Reuters on Monday.

'We are also shocked at the damage inflicted on the infrastructure of the country. We can only hope that the circumstances settle down soon.'

According to Lebanon's health ministry, more than 160 people have been killed in the country since Israel launched a series of bombardments following the abduction of two Israeli soldiers by Hizbollah in a cross-border raid last Wednesday.

The next round of qualifiers for the 2007 Asian Cup are scheduled for August 16 with Lebanon and Palestine among the teams involved.

'In the context of football activities in Lebanon... we shall keep in close contact with the Lebanese football association. We hope that the Asian Cup matches can be held as scheduled,' the AFC added.

'We will do all we can to make sure the matches can take place in a safe and sporting environment.'

Lebanon are set to travel to Bahrain with Palestine facing Iraq in a match already scheduled to be played in neutral Jordan because of security fears.