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Politicians weigh into handball debate

The deepening row over Ireland's bitter World Cup defeat to France has spilled over into the political arena, with the Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen and French President Nicolas Sarkozy admitting they had discussed Thierry Henry's handball.

• FAI request France replay
• Maher: Ireland hard done by
• Keane blasts FIFA and UEFA
• France 1-1 (2-1 agg) Ireland
• Ireland fuming over handball
• Henry admits handball

As the Irish Government and football bosses sent demands for a rematch to FIFA, Taoiseach Cowen said he would raise the controversy with Sarkozy at a European summit in Brussels

Cowen called on world football's governing body FIFA to order that the World Cup qualifier be played again.

Asked if he backed the Football Association of Ireland's call for a re-match, Cowen said: "Yes, I do. Our minister of sport will write to FIFA in support of that complaint and look for a re-match."

And after meeting with Sarkozy, Cowen said he believed that "he [Sarkozy] would understand the sense of disappointment that the Irish people feel after the tremendous performance last night I think that fair play is a fundamental part of the game,''

But Cowen was keen to play down the role of politicians getting involved in the debate.

"This matter's going to be resolved by the sports organisations with responsibility for football, not in Brussels or anywhere else,'' he said.

Asked whether he told Sarkozy the match should be played again, Cowen said: "No, I didn't ask for a replay.''

Sarkozy also admitted to the talks at the EU summit in Brussels and revealed he had offered his apologies to the Irish Prime Minister.

"I told Brian Cowen how sorry I was for them," Sarkozy said. "But don't ask me to substitute myself for the referee, or the French football authorities, or the European football authorities: leave me right where I am.''

"You're going to start denouncing me as the hyper-president again,'' he said, in reference to his reputation as a leader who is drawn to the limelight and seeks to get involved in as many international issues as possible.

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