Iran athletes to face Israel in London games

ROB HARRIS
Last updated 13:15 24/07/2012

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Iranian athletes will compete against Israelis at the London Olympics, according to the country's chef de mission.

Iran has been criticised in the past because some of its athletes withdrew from events against Israelis at the 2004 Athens Games and 2008 Beijing Games.

"We will be truthful to sport," said Bahram Afsharzadeh, who is also the secretary general of the Iranian Olympic committee, who was at times speaking through a translator, also said his team had no plans to boycott events because of the nationality of opponents. "We just follow the sportsmanship and play every country," Afsharzadeh said.

Afsharzadeh spoke in the athletes village after signing the "truce wall," a UN-backed initiative calling on warring parties around the world to end hostilities during the period of the games. "In sport and in Olympics, all the countries must (be) together with the teams in friendship," Afsharzadeh said in English. "Solidarity for all the countries is very important." Afsharzadeh also said Iran would "respect" a minute of silence if it was held in the opening ceremony to remember the 11 Israelis murdered at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

The International Olympic Committee, though, is currently rebuffing Israel's plea for the commemoration. "This case is for the IOC," Afsharzadeh said. "Everything from the IOC we respect."

Iran has 54 athletes in Britain for the games.

Outside the Olympics, Iran is involved in an ongoing standoff with Israel over the country's nuclear program, which the West suspects is aimed at producing an atomic weapon. Iran denies the charge, insisting the program is for peaceful purposes only.

In 2011, Britain cut ties with Iran and closed its embassy in Tehran after militant Iranian students stormed the mission. Despite the bitter relations between Iran and Britain, Afsharzadeh said: "Everything about the country (Britain) is very, very fantastic and everything is really normal."

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- AP

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