Iraq Fights Back on Olympic Decision

An Iraqi delegation headed to Switzerland on Saturday for talks with the International Olympic Committee over a ban on Iraq competing in the Beijing Games, government officials said.

The Iraqis will meet with IOC representatives early next week at the committee's headquarters in Lausanne, said IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies.

She said the Iraqis have offered the IOC "productive signals" that could allow two athletes from the original seven-member Iraqi team to compete in Beijing. She did not elaborate.

The Iraqi envoys include the government's main spokesman and other senior sports representatives, two sports officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the issue.

Earlier this week, the IOC upheld its ban on Iraq for what it calls political inference in Olympic affairs.

In May, Iraq's government replaced the national Olympic Committee with members not recognized by the IOC. Iraqi officials have said they will not reverse the decision and claim the disbanded committee was rife with corruption and other abuses.

The IOC, meanwhile, has insisted the old committee be reinstated — even though four members remain missing, including the committee's chief. They were kidnapped two years ago and their fates remain unknown.

Ahmed Radhi, a member of the sports committee in Iraq's parliament, was quoted by the sports newspaper Azzaman as saying he still holds out hope for a compromise before the Aug. 8 opening ceremony in Beijing.

On Friday, IOC spokeswoman Emmanuelle Moreau said the deadline to finalize athletics competitors is this coming Wednesday, and that Iraq can field a partial team if the government reverses its decision.

That means two members of Iraq's Olympic team — a discus thrower and a sprinter — could still make it into the Olympics. But the deadline has already expired for the other members of Iraq's Olympic team.

Iraq had also hoped to compete in weightlifting, judo, archery and rowing.