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Blatter questions timing of FIFA arrests

29 May 2015, 18:04

Zurich - FIFA leader Sepp Blatter on Friday joined figures who have questioned the timing of a police raid to arrest top football figures just two days ahead of a presidential vote by the world body.

Blatter also told the FIFA congress that the world body might not be embroiled in its corruption scandal if Russia and Qatar had not been awarded the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

Blatter condemned corruption within FIFA, but said: "It's not good that all this comes out exactly two days before the FIFA election.

"People talk about a coincidence, but I have a small question mark" about the timing. Blatter sought a fifth straight term in the election in the face of fierce European opposition.

Swiss police, carrying out US warrants, arrested seven officials, including two FIFA vice presidents, at a luxury Zurich hotel on Wednesday. The seven face extradition to the United States.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin and other sports officials have spoken openly of a conspiracy or questioned the timing of the action.

Russia beat England to get the 2018 World Cup, while Qatar was surprise choice to host the 2022 tournament, with the United States one of the losing candidates.

Swiss police are investigating the 2010 vote by FIFA and raided FIFA's headquarters at the same time as the arrests were made.

Putin said Wednesday's arrests were "clearly an attempt to block the reelection of Blatter".

He also alleged that the United States was trying to "spread its jurisdiction to other countries" and that pressure was being put on Blatter over the decision to award the World Cup to Russia.

Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah, president of the Olympic Council of Asia and a new FIFA executive member, told AFP the police raid was "Hollywood style".

"Many people are asking questions about these events but no one has said it because they are scared of the FBI," said the sheikh who was in the Baur au Lac hotel when the arrests were carried out.

"Why did they want to do it two days before the congress? They could have done it six weeks before.

"If England and America had secured the 2018 and 2022 World Cups would this procedure have been the same?" he added.

Blatter also raised the 2010 vote when discussing Wednesday's arrests.

"If on December 2, 2010, two other countries had been designated organisers of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups, I think we would not have these problems today," he said.

US authorities, who have indicted 14 people on charges of involvement in $150 million in bribes. They say the investigation into football corruption will go on and be expanded.

England has been at the forefront of the many European critics of Blatter's leadership. Even British Prime Minister David Cameron has called for Blatter to stand down.

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