Monday, November 14, 2005

Iran bans Korean sponsor over nuclear vote row

Furious over the Republic of Korea's opposition to its nuclear program, the Iran government unilaterally ditched the South Korean sponsors of a friendly international football tournament. "From today, no competition will have a [South] Korean sponsor, and that goes for all sports federations," the student agency ISNA quoted national sports official Mehdi Ghadami.

The event once known as the “LG Cup”, backed sinced 1997 by the South Korean electronics giant, was to go ahead with another title, “The peaceful usage of nuclear energy is the definite claim for Iranians”, reported Pakistan newspaper Daily Times.

Iranian football officials said they were looking for local sponsors to meet the five to six billion rials (US$ 550,000 to 660,000) required to cover the event.

The political intervention is in response to South Korea's decision to co-sponsor an International Atomic Energy Agency resolution in September that paved the way for Iran to be brought before the UN Security Council over its disputed nuclear program.

This year’s competition featured four teams: Iran, Macedonia, Paraguay and Togo. Romania was due to take part but pulled out after Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called for Israel to be “wiped off the map” -- and was replaced by FYR Macedonia "B".

Paraguay won the tournament on Sunday after beating Macedonia 1-0 at Azadi Football Stadium. Iran finished third after beating Togo 2-0, AP reported.

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