An Iraqi delegation was set to meet with IOC officials to try to salvage the country's participation in the Beijing Games.
Iraq delegation hopes to persuade IOC
LAUSANNE, Switzerland // An Iraqi delegation was set to meet with International Olympic Committee (IOC) officials today to try to salvage the country's participation in the Beijing Games. The delegation, led by government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh, was seeking to reverse the IOC's decision to suspend Iraq because of government interference in the country's national Olympic body. Iraq was suspended by the IOC in May after the government dissolved the National Olympic Committee over allegations of corruption. IOC spokesman Giselle Davies said yesterday that the organisation is expecting Iraq to formally pledge to hold free elections for its national committee under IOC observation. Hours before the talks, a delegation of Iraqi groups in Switzerland came to the IOC headquarters to deliver a letter to Olympic officials expressing dismay at their country's suspension and requesting the decision be overturned. Ahmed Tabour, head of the Iraqi Cultural and Sports Committee in Switzerland, said his country was being treated unfairly by the IOC. "Iraq was never suspended during the days of Saddam (Hussein), who personally appointed the National Olympic Committee," he said. "The Iraqi people need hope, and sport gives them a lot of hope." The talks come 24 hours before a deadline tomorrow to submit competitors' names for the athletics events, and 10 days before the opening ceremony in Beijing. A breakthrough in today's talks would allow two Iraqi athletes to compete in athletics events. Five other Olympics hopefuls in archery, judo, rowing and weightlifting lost their chance to compete when a deadline to select teams for those sports passed last Wednesday. Basil Abdul Mahdi, an adviser to the Ministry of Youth and Sport, said last week there would be "no retreat" in Baghdad's decision to replace the disbanded Olympic Committee. The IOC has insisted that the old committee be reinstated even though four members were kidnapped two years ago. Their fates remain unknown.