Iraq banned from Olympics

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The Independent Online

Iraq has been banned from taking part in the Beijing Olympics because of a government decision to disband the Iraqi Olympic Committee, an official at the committee said today.

Iraq's government had disbanded the country's Olympic committee in May because of a dispute over how it had been assembled.

"This morning we were informed of the final decision of the International Olympic Committee to suspend the membership of the Iraqi Olympic Committee," Hussein al-Amidi, the general secretary of the Iraqi Olympic Committee, said.

Iraq had planned to send a small team despite violence that has killed more than 100 athletes in the country since the 2003 U.S. led invasion.

"It's a final decision, there is no way to appeal. This means that Iraq will not take part in the coming Olympic games. It is a blow to Iraq and its international reputation, its athletes and its youth," Amidi said.

"I swear those athletes who have been training ... they phoned me today and they were crying and were very upset."

"We sent a letter to the Iraqi government today saying that as the situation stands today it is unlikely to have Iraqi athletes at the Beijing Games," IOC spokesperson Emmanuelle Moreau told Reuters.