Iraq will continue their World Cup qualification in
Brisbane against Australia [GALLO/GETTY]
 
Football's world governing body lifted the international ban on Iraq just before their self imposed deadline, allowing the World Cup qualifier against Australia to go ahead.

Fifa had suspended Asian champion Iraq over government interference in the domestic running of the sport by dissolving the national Olympic committee and all sports federations.

However, the ban was provisionally and conditionally lifted just eight hours before a midnight, Sydney local time, deadline after Fifa received documentation from Iraqi officials which explained the situation.

"The suspension has been lifted, the game will go ahead.'' Blatter said.

"Fifa received a letter from the General Secretariat for the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Iraq, confirming that the IFA had been 'excluded' from the above-mentioned decree, thereby re-establishing the statutory order of the Iraqi association and its leaders, who will 'continue their activities inside and outside Iraq until legal election','' a statement from Fifa read.

However, Fifa said that more meetings would be scheduled with Iraqi officials in Zurich and that the ban could be re-imposed if certain criteria were not met.

"This letter is a positive step, however it does not fully answer all of Fifa's concerns about the governmental attempts to control the Iraqi federations and the Iraqi National Olympic Committee,'' Fifa said.

"Therefore, Fifa has decided to lift the suspension imposed on the IFA, but on a purely provisional and conditional basis.''

A delegation comprising members of the Asian Football Confederation, Iraqi Football Association, the Iraq government and Fifa will meet as soon as possible to clarify all outstanding issues.

"Fifa will continue to coordinate the steps it has taken with regard to the IFA, a body that is an important member of the Iraqi National Olympic Committee, with the efforts taken by the IOC to ensure that the Olympic Charter is applied to the entire Iraqi Olympic and sporting movement.''

Sudan v Chad suspended

Fifa also announced the World Cup qualifier between Sudan and Chad, initially scheduled for May 31, was indefinitely suspended pending a decision of the World Cup organising committee.

The neighbouring countries have a longstanding conflict, renewed by the situation in the Sudanese border region of Darfur.

Iraqi players have returned to
training [GALLO/GETTY]
Diplomatic relations were severed this month.

The decisions came as Fifa president Sepp Blatter walked into the opening ceremonies for the 58th Congress, comprising representatives of all 208 member nations, at the Sydney Opera House.

Blatter informed congress delegates at the opening ceremonies of Fifa's decision, which was greeted with loud applause.

Football Federation Australia welcomed the Iraq decision.

"This is great news,'' FFA chief Ben Buckley said.

"We're truly delighted that the Iraqi Government, the Iraq FA and Fifa have sorted out the issues between them and the Socceroos and Iraq can get on the field to play this important match.

"It has always been our hope that the games could go ahead as they are critical matches in Australia's World Cup qualification preparation, and playing football is what we're here for.''

The return Group 1 match will be played in Dubai on June 7.

The Iraqi squad arrived in Australia late Tuesday, despite the provisional suspension, after a 2-1 upset loss in a friendly against Thailand last weekend.

A step forward

Asian Football Confederation president Mohamed Bin Hammam said the Iraqi government's moves to clarify the suspension "is a step forward in the right direction.''

"Now the World Cup game can go on, which is what the AFC, both teams and fans wanted.''

He urged the Iraqi team to "put the past behind and focus on the important match ahead,'' but added that the lifting of the suspension was provisional and the matter would only be fully resolved when the the Iraqi National Olympic Committee and all sports federations are reinstated.

"Only such a move can lead to re-instilling of trust in Iraqi sports,'' he said.

Source: Agencies