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By ESPN Staff

Spanish government brush off Blatter ban threat

MADRID, Feb 18 (Reuters) - The Spanish government is convinced their national team will be allowed to compete at Euro 2008, despite Sepp Blatter's threat to the contrary.

The FIFA president has warned Spain that they face a bar from international competitions if the government continue to pressure the Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) to hold an early election.

'The team qualified (for the tournament) on the field of play. I am sure they will compete,' Spain's sports minister Jaime Lissavetzky told reporters on Monday.

'I respect everyone's opinion but I defend Spain's sovereignty, her laws, and the principle of democratic and transparent elections in all the federations. Spain's rules governing elections are compatible with FIFA's.'

Spain, through their Sports Council (CSD), have insisted that all sporting federations not involved in the Olympic Games should hold elections before Beijing 2008, which takes place in August.

Lissavetzky said the RFEF had not asked the CSD for a time extension which was within their rights.

'Sometimes there are tense moments which can be overcome and I hope this is only a debate rather than the start of something that no one wants,' he added.

Earlier, Blatter had been blunt in his support for RFEF president Angel Maria Villar and his organisation.

'If the Spanish government, through the CSD, continue to interfere in footballing affairs they will have to recognise that their clubs and national team will be excluded from international tournaments,' he was quoted as saying in Spanish media.

'It would be tough, but it would only take six hours to call a FIFA emergency committee meeting to hear and decide upon Spain's exclusion.

'Spain would not be able to play at Euro 2008, and their clubs wouldn't continue in the Champions League or UEFA Cup.'

Blatter said FIFA would not be afraid to take action as it had proven in the past in incidents with Portugal and Greece, where it had prevailed.

'We don't have a crisis situation at present,' he said. 'The RFEF have called a general assembly to ratify FIFA's new electoral code and to call an election at the end of the year. We have a small fire but we don't need the firefighters yet.

'FIFA is like the United Nations but has more members and is more powerful.'