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IOC Bans Iraq From Beijing Olympic Games

The International Olympic Committee has banned Iraq from the Beijing Olympics because of government interference in the National Olympic Committee.

An IOC spokeswoman told VOA Sports that the decision follows the suspension of Iraq's Olympic Committee in early June. The IOC had invited the Iraqi government to Lausanne to try to resolve the situation, but no progress has been made.

In a letter to the Iraqi Sports Minister, the IOC said in spite of its efforts and those of the Olympic Council of Asia to find a solution, the situation has not changed and Iraq's suspension was upheld.

The IOC suspended Iraq because of what it called "ongoing political interference by the government in the sports movement in Iraq." The IOC move was made after the Iraqi Council of Ministers dismissed the national Olympic Committee and appointed an interim committee chaired by the minister of sport.

The Iraqi government said last month that the Olympic Committee was dissolved because it did not have enough members for a quorum and elections have not been held in five years. The head of the Iraqi Olympic Committee, Ahmed Al-Samarrai, was kidnapped in July of 2006 and has not been heard from since.

The IOC spokeswoman said that the door remains open for change, but she does not expect Iraq to be able to meet the governing body's requirements in time for the opening ceremonies on August 8.