NEWS

Iraq elects Olympic committee

DUKAN, Iraq – A new Iraqi national Olympic committee was elected yesterday to replace one once headed by Saddam Hussein’s brutal son Odai – a first step toward letting Iraqi athletes compete in the Summer Olympics. However, the 30 sports officials who cast ballots failed to elect a woman to the executive board as is strongly encouraged under International Olympic Committee rules. Iman Sadih Hussein stepped aside after she and a male candidate each received 18 votes for the fifth and final place on the five-member executive board. Officials said they would meet soon to resolve the issue of women’s representation. The new committee president, Ahmed al-Sammarai, was a star athlete and former general who defected from Saddam Hussein’s Iraq while attending a meeting in Geneva 20 years ago. Al-Sammarai ran uncontested. The IOC suspended the Iraqi committee May 17 after the US-led coalition ousted Saddam’s regime. Al-Sammarai said the new committee would try to erase the stain on Iraq’s image in international sports brought about by abuses allegedly committed by Odai, who was formerly the head of the committee. Iraqis hope the new committee will pave the way for the IOC to lift the suspension in time for the country to compete at the Aug. 13-29 Athens Olympics. An IOC delegation attended the election meeting in this northern Iraqi resort town and will report to its executive board at its next meeting Feb. 27 in Athens, where it might decide to lift the Iraqi suspension. In Lausanne, Switzerland, IOC President Jacques Rogge said he was disappointed that no woman was chosen to the executive committee but added that «you have to respect a democratic vote.» «However, it is the wrong signal,» Rogge told The Associated Press.