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Citing conflict, Lebanon pulls out of Asian Cup

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- Lebanon has pulled out of the 2007 Asian Cup qualifiers citing turmoil from the ongoing conflict between Israeli forces and Hezbollah guerrillas.

The Asian Football Confederation released a statement Tuesday saying its board would convene an emergency meeting to discuss the withdrawal letter sent by Lebanon Football Association general secretary Rahif Alameh.

The AFC published on its Web site a transcript of the letter sent Monday by Alameh.

In it, Alameh said Lebanon was "unable to proceed in our participation" in the tournament "due to the tragic circumstances our country and people are passing through as a result of the barbaric attack imposed on Lebanon by the Israeli Army."

"We assume you are totally aware of the enormous disaster that overwhelmed our country, where hundreds of thousands of people were forced to leave their unsafe houses evading from this war, among which are several of our Lebanese national team players."

Lebanon drew 1-1 with Kuwait in its opening match on Feb. 22. It was due to play Bahrain on Aug. 16 and Australia on Aug. 31. It also had home matches against Bahrain and Australia in September and November.

The absence of Lebanon leaves Australia, which reached the second round at the World Cup before losing to eventual champion Italy, in the group with Bahrain and Kuwait.

The Asian Cup finals will be held from July 7-29 next year in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.

The two top teams from six qualifying groups advance to the finals.