Platini says Qatar claims `tarnishing` his image

Paris: UEFA president Michel Platini on Tuesday attacked a British newspaper for seeking to "tarnish" his reputation by drawing him into corruption claims against the Qatar World Cup bid.

"I`m no longer astonished by the spreading of unfounded rumours aimed at tarnishing my image at an important moment for the future of football.

"Nothing surprises me any longer," the European football boss responded.

The Daily Telegraph alleged that the French football legend had held "a secret meeting" with Mohamed Bin Hammam, the controversial Qatari accused of making slush fund payments to secure support for Qatar`s 2022 campaign.

The paper said Platini, who may challenge Sepp Blatter as boss of world football`s ruling body FIFA next year, held private talks with Bin Hammam "shortly before FIFA awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar".

It said the disgraced former FIFA vice-president "personally lobbied Mr Platini to support the emirate`s bid". Platini accepted that he had met Bin Hammam. "I find it incredible that talks with a FIFA executive committee member colleague at the time can be transformed into a state conspiracy.

"I certainly met Mr Mohamed Bin Hammam several times in 2010 as we were both of us executive committee members since 2002.

"In these conversations....The object of the discussions was the candidacy for the FIFA presidency," he added.

"Mr Bin Hammam was in fact seeking to convince me to stand for the FIFA presidency in the 2011 elections."

The former French football great recalled that he was the only FIFA executive committee member to publicly declare that he voted for Qatar in the vote in December 2010. "That`s proof of my total transparency, and that no one has dictated my behaviour."

Bin Hammam was banned from world football in 2011 after being caught bribing voters in his campaign to be elected FIFA president. Qatar has since disowned the official. Platini`s intervention comes the day after renewed calls for FIFA to reopen the 2022 bidding process triggered by The Sunday Times.

The paper said it had obtained emails, documents and bank transfers relating to SPORT-SOCCER-PLATINI alleged payments made by Bin Hammam to get a "groundswell" of support for the wealthy emirate`s bid. "We vehemently deny all allegations of wrong-doing," said Qatar`s World Cup organising committee in a statement released Sunday.

FIFA`s investigation into the 2018 (won by Russia) and 2022 bidding process conducted by former US attorney Michael Garcia will be completed by June 9, just before FIFA holds its Congress in Sao Paulo. Blatter is to announce at the congress on June 10-11 whether he will stand for a new term in 2015. Platini has said he will announce later in the year whether he will be a rival.

Garcia`s eagerly awaited findings will be made public in July. Blaster, in Brasilia to meet Brazil`s President Dilma Rousseff, deflected questions on the Qatar affair, as did FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke. "No answer, no question," Valcke said at the launch of the World Cup TV broadcast centre in Rio de Janeiro on Monday.

In the first FIFA executive vote on the 2022 contest, Qatar received 11 votes, South Korea four, the United States and Japan three each and Australia one. Qatar went on to beat the United States 14 votes to eight in the fourth round.

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