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Blatter casts doubt on Qatar World Cup vote

FIFA President Sepp Blatter has cast even more doubt on the process under which Qatar was awarded the 2022 World Cup. He has blamed a former French president for scuppering a back-room deal.

Speaking in Friday's edition of the Financial Times, Blatter, who is currently serving a provisional 90-day suspension handed down by soccer's international governing body, reiterated a claim that there had been a back-room deal to send the World Cup first to Russia, then to the United States.

Repeating a claim that he had made in an interview with the Russian news agency TASS on Wednesday, Blatter told the FT that there had been a "gentleman's agreement" that the two tournaments would go to the "two superpowers." However, this agreement wasn't officially noted by FIFA's Executive Committee.

"It was behind the scenes. It was diplomatically arranged to go there," he said. According to Blatter, though, the plan went off the rails when UEFA President Michel Platini decided against supporting the US bid, under pressure from then-French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

"Just one week before the election I got a telephone call from Platini and he said, 'I am no longer in your picture because I have been told by the head of state that we should consider ... the situation of France'. And he told me that this will affect more than one vote because he had a group of voters."

Platini, who like Blatter has also been suspended by FIFA, has

admitted to voting for Qatar in the December 2010 election

to award the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. However, he has also denied having done so at the behest of Sarkozy.

Speaking to French 24-hour news channel BFMTV on Thursday, Sarkozy also denied having used his influence to affect the outcome of the World Cup vote.

The suspensions of Blatter and Platini came over outstanding questions about a

1.8-million-euro ($2 million) payment made by FIFA to the UEFA president in 2011

for consultancy work carried out several years earlier. Both parties deny any wrongdoing.

The 79-year-old Blatter is to step down on

February 26, when a new FIFA president

is to be elected.

pfd/jh (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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