Zurich - FIFA on Wednesday ordered Palestine to play World
Cup qualifying matches against Saudi Arabia and Malaysia at neutral venues
because of security fears.
A FIFA emergency bureau made the decision after the Saudis
announced on Tuesday they would refuse to travel to the occupied territories
for their match.
FIFA officials and Palestinian authorities met on Tuesday
and "the Palestinian government confirmed that it could no longer guarantee
the safety and security around the matches in question," FIFA said in a
The Palestine-Saudi Arabia match, which was originally
scheduled for November 5 will now be played on November 9, while the
Palestine-Malaysia match will still be played, as planned, on 12 November.
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FIFA has asked the Palestinian Football Association to find
a neutral ground in Asia to host both matches.
Saudi Arabia said on Tuesday they had decided not to play
the disputed qualifier in Ramallah.
"The Saudi federation has sent an official letter in
which it announced withdrawing from the match against Palestine scheduled for
Thursday," Saudi FA spokeman Adnan al-Moaibed said.
The teams played in Jeddah in June in the first of their two
scheduled Asia zone World Cup qualifiers. The Saudis won 3-2.
That match was originally supposed to be played in
Palestine, but Saudi Arabia had refused to travel to the Israeli-occupied West
Bank, citing undefined "exceptional circumstances".
The return leg was then set for October 13, again in the
West Bank, but Saudi Arabia on September 23 demanded that it be played at a
That demand was accepted by the FIFA World Cup organising
committee, but the Palestinian federation refused to accept the decision,
saying it set a "dangerous precedent."
Many Arab national teams refuse to play in the West Bank,
saying it "normalises" Israel's occupation of Palestinian territory.
Israel controls all access to the Palestinian territories,
and Saudi Arabia has no diplomatic relations with Israel.For
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