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By ESPN Staff

Asian confederation supports Iraq soccer leaders

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- The Asian Football Confederation wants the Iraq government to reinstate the nation's soccer association. The Iraq Football Association, which had overseen the Iraq team's climb to reigning Asian Cup champion despite the difficulties faced by the war-torn nation, was disbanded by the government Tuesday. "The Iraq Football Association and its executive committee are democratically elected bodies and only its congress has the right to dissolve them," AFC president Mohamed Bin Hammam said Wednesday in a statement. "AFC will recognize and deal with only the democratically elected committee and office-bearers." The AFC had lodged an appeal with the Iraq sports minister. "The Iraq Football Association has done excellent work despite the difficult conditions they are operating in," bin Hammam said. "It is a testimony to their hard work that Iraq (is) the Asian champions and their youth teams have done so well in AFC tournaments and also the Olympics." The dispute over who is in charge of Iraqi soccer cast doubt upon the future of Iraq's World Cup qualifying campaign, with FIFA strict about any governmental interference in national associations. Iraq's next scheduled World Cup qualifier is in Australia on June 1.

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