Iran won't be kicked out from World Cup

FIFA will not kick out Iran from next year's World Cup despite calls from German politicians for it to be excluded because the country's president denies the Holocaust. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had caused outrage by calling the Holocaust a "myth" used by Europeans as a pretext for carving out a Jewish state in the heart of the Muslim world.

Ahmadinejad's comments were sharply denounced in Germany, which is sensitive to its Nazi past. Hitler's Nazi regime was responsible for the deaths of six million Jews in the Holocaust. The calls to banish Iran from the event in Germany came mostly from the opposition Greens party, although they had been supported by parts of the media and members of the country's ruling coalition.

"A country with such a president, who is driving the country into isolation, has nothing to do at the World Cup," said Angelika Beer, a Greens member of the European Parliament. The leader of the Greens in Germany's parliament, Volker Beck, said Iran must be shown that "this cannot go on and that it cannot remain without consequences." Social Democrats lawmaker Swen Schulz said the president's "unbearable comments" had "endangered" Iran's participation in the World Cup.

But soccer's world governing body said Thursday that Iran will take part. "FIFA strictly separates sports from politics," spokesman Andreas Herren said. Earlier this week, Iran Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said: "It is a childish attitude to follow Zionist propaganda aimed at depriving the Iranian football team of its place on the pretext that Iran mixed up sports with politics." Iran coach Branko Ivankovic stressed that "a time to make friends" is the official World Cup motto. "The best thing about sport is that it is completely apart from politics," Ivankovic said. "FIFA's official position has always been to ban any mixing of sports and politics."

Iran has been drawn to play Mexico, Portugal and Angola in Group D. Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a Greens member in the EU Parliament, and ARD, one of Germany's two public television networks, argued that excluding Iran would start a "serious debate" in that country. Leading Italian columnist Furio Colombo said in Thursday's Corriere della Sera daily that he supported banning Iran, reports the AP. N.U.

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