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Monday, August 7, 2000
Afghanistan tries to join Olympics

 SYDNEY, Australia (AP) -- With the Olympics less than six weeks away, Afghanistan diplomats are trying to ensure that their athletes can compete at the Sydney Games.

 Mahmoud Saikal, Afghanistan's honorary consul-general to Australia, wants to overturn sanctions placed on his country's National Olympic Committee.

 Afghanistan was not invited to send a team to Sydney because the International Olympic Committee ruled the NOC had no real control over sports in the politically unstable country.

 Afghanistan's Taliban rulers last week wrote to the IOC, demanding that it overturn the suspension. In issuing its suspension, the IOC also said the Taliban-run Olympic committee bans women from sports.

 "In order to have an NOC, you have to be recognized by the United Nations, which the government in Afghanistan is not," an IOC spokesman said Monday. "You also have to have five national federations recognized by the international federations."

 Shakoor Muttmain, the Taliban's minister for sports, said he thought pressure from the United States and the United Nations prompted the IOC ban.

 The United Nations regards the ousted government of president Burhanuddin Rabbani as Afghanistan's legitimate government and does not recognize the hard-line Taliban rulers, who control more than 90 percent of the country.

 Saikal, who represents the ousted government, said the suspension was under review.

 "We are confident that Afghanistan will participate in the Olympic Games," he was quoted as saying. "The Olympic people from Afghanistan have been in contact with me and ... they are confident they will be there.

 "This is a sports event. It's a matter of our sport men and women, what is left of them, to come and take part in these games."

 Afghanistan has competed at every Summer Olympics since 1936, Saikal said. Invitations were sent to 199 nations to compete in Sydney. The deadline for acceptances is the end of August.

 Muttmain has said Afghan athletes have been training in wrestling, boxing, soccer and track and field.

 The Afghan men who compete must follow strict rules that prohibit them from wearing shorts and require that they grow beards.

 International boxing and wrestling tournaments require athletes to be clean-shaven.
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