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The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has pledged its full support to Iraq in its bid to overturn a ban on playing home internationals, but has warned against government interference in the administration of the sport.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) has pledged its full support to Iraq in its bid to overturn a ban on playing home internationals, but has warned against government interference in the administration of the sport.

The development comes after Iraq last week lost the hosting rights to another edition of the Gulf Cup of Nations after the football associations overseeing the tournament moved next year’s event from Basra to the Saudi city of Jeddah. Tuesday’s decision was said to have been approved unanimously and was taken due to FIFA’s ban on Iraq’s hosting of international matches. The ban was implemented in July and was criticised last week by Jordan’s Prince Ali Bin Al-Hussein, a member of the FIFA Executive Committee.

AFC president Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, also a FIFA member and the head of the Bahrain Football Association, said checks would be carried out to see if war-torn Iraq was safe to host matches. “Both FIFA and AFC have agreed that the continental governing body will send a working team to assess the situation,” said Sheikh Salman, according to Reuters. “The team will present a full report to FIFA which will help them in this issue.”

The 2013 Gulf Cup was also scheduled to be held in Iraq only for it to be moved to Bahrain due to security concerns. The decision to switch the 2014 tournament has led to Iraq’s Ministry of Youth and Sport removing the national team from the event, stating political motivations for the move amid deteriorating relations with Saudi Arabia. Iraq was handed a FIFA ban for political interference in 2009 and Sheikh Salman warned sending the AFC assessment team had conditions. “We are with you and will support whatever decisions you take for the benefit of Iraqi football but we will not tolerate interference from outsiders,” he added.

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