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Blatter hits back at `smear tactics` claim

London: FIFA chief Sepp Blatter denied involvement in the corruption charges against election rival Mohamed Bin Hammam on Thursday, expressing his "shock and dismay" at the latest scandal to rock world football.

In a column on the respected InsideWorldFootball blog, Blatter said suggestions that the allegations against Bin Hammam were politically motivated ahead of a June 1st presidential election were "ludicrous."

"I take no joy to see men who stood by my side for some two decades, suffer through public humiliation without having been convicted of any wrongdoing ...," Blatter wrote in his column.

"To now assume that the present ordeal of my opponent were to fill me with some sort of perverse satisfaction or that this entire matter was somehow masterminded by me is ludicrous and completely reprehensible."

Football`s world governing body was thrown into uproar on Wednesday after FIFA chiefs announced it had opened a corruption investigation into Asian Football Confederation chief Bin Hammam and CONCACAF counterpart Jack Warner.

Bin Hammam, Warner and two officials from the Caribbean Football Union (CFU) have been ordered to appear before FIFA`s ethics committee in Zurich on May 29.

British media reports said Bin Hammam and Warner are accused of offering USD 40,000 cash gifts to national associations at the May 10 and 11 talks in Trinidad in return for their votes in the FIFA poll.

Bin Hammam has strongly denied the allegations and in a new statement released later Thursday called for Blatter to be questioned by the ethics commitee, saying the FIFA boss "was informed of, but did not oppose" payments made to Caribbean officials.

"Mr Bin Hammam has therefore requested that the investigation by the Ethics Committee be extended to include Mr Blatter himself," a statement issued by Bin Hammam`s office said.

The furore is threatening to torpedo bin Hammam`s campaign -- which is founded on an anti-corruption theme -- and has also further besmirched the image of FIFA, which has been dragged through the mire by repeated graft claims.

FIFA opened a separate inquiry after accusations made in the British parliament regarding the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

Former English Football Association chairman David Triesman told a committee he had witnessed "improper and unethical" behaviour by four FIFA voters -- including Warner -- while campaigning for England`s failed 2018 World Cup bid.

On Monday, Qatar denied claims aired in the committee that it paid large bribes to secure its shock victory in the battle to host the 2022 tournament. Bin Hammam, who was instrumental in the bid, has also rejected the allegations.

Despite FIFA`s woes, 13-year leader Blatter is seen as the favourite to stay in power at next week`s vote.

Blatter used his rival`s woes on Thursday to reiterate his commitment to wide-ranging reform of FIFA in what would be his final four-year term.

"What FIFA needs is iron-clad laws that are implemented forcefully and allow world football`s governing body to conduct its affairs transparently, properly and professionally in every respect," Blatter wrote.

"I am horrified by the most recent developments that are shedding a very bad light on FIFA yet again: no sane person can take pleasure in this development, and no decent person will enjoy the troubles of others, be that friend or foe."

Bureau Report

From Zee News

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