Olympics: Rogge pledges support for embattled Egyptian IOC member

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BEIJING: International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge pledged his support for embattled Egyptian IOC member Mounir Sabet on Wednesday and promised to hold talks with the Egyptian government.

The 65-year-old Belgian said that the best way forward was for dialogue to take place between the IOC and the government, which is accused of challenging the independence of Egypt s national Olympic committee, but that other measures could be taken if talks were not conclusive.

The IOC recently suspended the Iraqi NOC after the Baghdad government disbanded it and replaced it with their own members. The Iraqis were later reinstated as was the case with Panama and Sudan.

Rogge, though, said that he preferred to talk first and then act.

I see so many members here who have been under similar pressure in the past three to four years, said Rogge.

How have these issues been solved? Well there have been negotiations with governments and in most cases they agree and change.

At times the governments in question deny they have broken the IOC Charter so we suspend them as we did with Afghanistan, who under the Taliban refused to allow women to compete, and then of course we did that with Iraq.

This suspension usually leads to a second set of negotiations because the government accepts to change their legislation.

Rogge said that the talks were always a delicate matter.

They (the governments) are sovereign, we are not. We have to be respectful, said Rogge, who is at his last Olympic Games as President before he steps down in October 2009.

It has to be a win-win situation for everybody; autonomy for us, dignity for them, so they can save face.

The IOC is fully on your (Sabet s) side. We have sent very clear letters to them (the government) and we will see how they react.

Sabet, an IOC member since 1998, had earlier laid out exactly the pressure he had come under after working well with four Egyptian Sports Ministers until the fifth one created a National Council of Sports.

The situation became different than in the past, said Sabet.

He felt that as long as he financed and paid for the federations that he owned us. He issued decisions which were not accepted by different bodies.

Because of this opposition he was not very pleased and instructed the media to label me as a traitor and not loyal to my country.

Sabet, who received full support from Lebanese member Toni Khoury who labeled Egypt as “the mother of Arab countries, said that if this type of interference was not dealt with then it could prove to be a persistent thorn in the IOC s side.

If measures are not taken it could encourage other countries to do similar things. I will continue to champion autonomy.

Governments have their role to play – like financing – but they also have their limits. -AFP

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