German chancellor will "not push to punish" Iran

New German chancellor Angela Merkel will not push to prohibit Iran from the FIFA World Cup because of controversial statements from Iran's president about Israel and the Holocaust, a government spokesman said. Ulrich Wilhelm said Merkel is not of the opinion that Iran's team or the country's fans should be punished over the remarks about Israel and the Holocaust by Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, which she has dismissed as unacceptable, Soccer Investor reported (20 January)

"Chancellor Merkel has made clear she personally doesn't believe in measures such as banning Iran from the World Cup that Germany is hosting," Wilhelm said when asked about a letter from an Israeli member of parliament urging her to exclude Iran. "That would punish the sportsmen and the sport enthusiasts, the people, for the actions of a government," Wilhelm added. "But she believes his deplorable remarks are unacceptable and must be challenged politically in every way possible."

Gilad Erdan, chairman of the Israeli parliament's sports subcommittee, wrote to Merkel urging her to ban Iran from the tournament unless it retracts its views on Israel and the Holocaust. Six million Jews died at the hands of Germany's Nazi terrorist regime between 1933 and 1945. Holocaust denial is a crime in Germany, punishable with a prison term of up to five years.

See also Blatter on professionalism and other Asian issues (27 Dec) and World Cup 2006 "tough draw" for Asia-5 says AFC (10 Dec).