US meddling in Fifa affairs – Putin

ZURICH - Russian President Vladimir Putin says the United States is meddling in Fifa's affairs in an attempt to take the 2018 World Cup away from his country.

Putin said in televised comments Thursday that it is "odd" that the probe was launched at the request of U.S. officials for crimes which do not involve its citizens and did not happen in the United States." Two of the 14 people charged by U.S. prosecutors on have U.S. citizenship.

In a separate probe, Swiss prosecutors are investigating the awarding of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar.

Putin said he is aware of "the pressure" on Sepp Blatter for his support of Russia hosting the World Cup.

Putin described Wednesday's pre-dawn arrests of seven soccer officials in Zurich as "yet another evident attempt to derail Mr. Blatter's re-election as Fifa president."

French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius supports the idea of delaying FIFA's election scheduled for Friday given the current corruption scandal.

Senior FIFA officials were among seven men arrested in Zurich as part of a U.S. federal racketeering case. FIFA's headquarters in Zurich were also raided by Swiss federal police for a separate probe of the 2018 and 2022 World Cup bidding contests.

Fabius said on France-Inter radio Thursday, "There have been accusations of corruption for years." Asked if the election should be delayed, he said, "That would seem to make sense."

Fifa President Sepp Blatter has cancelled another speaking engagement as he avoids appearing in public for a second day.

Fifa says Blatter will not give a scheduled speech to open Thursday's session of a soccer medical conference in a Zurich hotel.

Blatter skipped two meetings of continental soccer organizations on Wednesday. He typically would attend those ahead of Friday's annual congress of Fifa's 209 member federations.

The Fifa president would usually follow protocol and attend the UEFA meeting scheduled 12:30 p.m. (1030 GMT) Thursday.

However, UEFA leaders want to postpone the presidential election amid turmoil in world soccer after federal investigations by the United States and Swiss authorities hit Fifa on Wednesday.

UEFA is supporting Blatter's election opponent, Fifa vice president Prince Ali bin al-Hussein of Jordan.

World Cup sponsor Visa has made its strongest call yet for Fifa to act against corruption in world soccer, warning it could leave a deal that runs through 2022.

Ahead of Friday's presidential election, Visa said it expected Fifa "to take swift and immediate steps to address these issues within its organization."

"Should Fifa fail to do so, we have informed them that we will reassess our sponsorship," Visa said.

The statement responded to the arrests Wednesday of seven officials in Zurich as part of a U.S. federal investigation of racketeering, money laundering and wire fraud.

Visa re-signed with Fifa last year to cover the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, hosted by Russia and Qatar respectively.

The value of top-tier Fifa sponsor deals is not disclosed. It was valued at around $100 million for the 2014 tournament.

Visa signed in 2007 after Fifa's former financial services partner Mastercard sued for breach of contract.

Fifa paid $90 million to settle that case after a New York judge criticised its business ethics. – AP

Comments (1)

Someone twitted, ''When animals in a circus act violently, it is the circus master who has to take a share of the blame, for losing control over the animals, rather than slamming the animals. Sepp Blatter is trying to hide in broad daylight. Funny how power and greed seizes control over a man's wits.

Garikayi - 29 May 2015

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