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Blatter tries to calm Palestine-Israel FIFA dispute

The Israel Football Association has rejected Palestinian calls that it should be thrown out of FIFA. After months of dispute between the two associations, FIFA will vote on Israel's position this month.

FIFA president Sepp Blatter wants a "peace match" between Israel and the Palestinians as part of his "mission of peace" to calm tensions between the two soccer federations.

Blatter, in Jerusalem on Tuesday for talks with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has said the issue is his "challenge number one" ahead of the May 29 FIFA Congress, at which he will also be seeking re-election.

The world's governing body for football is set to hold a vote among its 209 members at that meeting on whether Israel's football association (IFA) should be suspended from the organization. The request has come from the Palestine Football Association.

Palestine, which has been a member of FIFA for 17 years, says Israel should be banned from international competition because of the restrictions it places on the movement of Palestinian players, the fact that five clubs playing in the Isreali league are located in settlements in Palestinian territories and that the IFA is avoiding the

issue of racism.

'Cynical' attempt, says IFA

IFA chief Rotem Kamer said on Tuesday that the Palestinian attempt to remove it from FIFA was "cynical" and not within the spirit of sport. Kamer said that the Palestinian demand had "nothing to do with sports."

"We see it as a clear mix of politics and football, something which should not find a place in the FIFA Congress," he told reporters. "We believe football in our region should be used as a bridge between people."

The Palestinian FA has twice put their complaints about Israel to FIFA, in 2013 and 2014, with late compromises being found on both occasions to stop the push for a vote.

The motion would need a three-quarters majority to be passed at the FIFA Congress in Zurich. Blatter said last week that a successful vote on the Palestinian motion would be a "dangerous" precedent that could get FIFA involved in other political and diplomatic battles.

apc/al (Reuters, AP)

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