Winter Games: Washington under pressure to observe truce

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Olympic leaders are lobbying Washington to refrain from taking military action against Iraq during the Winter Games.

The International Olympic Committee appealed yesterday for the United States to abide by a UN resolution that urges all nations to observe an "Olympic Truce" during the Nagano Games, which start on Saturday.

"We don't see any reason why the US would not abide by the principles they have adhered to," Francois Carrard, the IOC director general, said. "We hope the truce and peace can prevail.

"We are not involved in engaging in politics," Carrard added. "The United States of America takes whatever decision they feel appropriate."

The White House suggested on Monday that the Olympics would not be a factor in a decision on military action. Spokesman Mike McCurry said: "Not to my knowledge is any of the decision-making or thinking that the president and his senior policy leaders are undertaking affected by sporting events."

The US was among the 178 nations which signed the non-binding UN general assembly resolution in November. The resolution, which is based on a tradition dating back to the ancient games in Greece, calls on member states to stop hostilities while the Olympics are under way.

Dick Schultz, executive director of the US Olympic Committee, said that if fighting broke out he would consider asking US armed forces in Japan to help provide security for the American team. "If we felt it was necessary, we'd request the military to help with security," Schultz said. "We'll do anything we need to do to protect our athletes."