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Interpol puts two former officials on 'red notice' wanted list

European sports officials said that Mr Blatter's resignation was an important step, but that the organisation needed deeper changes.


INTERPOL put two top former Fifa officials on its "red notice" wanted list at the request of US authorities on Wednesday as their investigation into corruption at soccer's governing body gathered pace.

South Africa confirmed it had given US$10 million meant to help pay for the 2010 World Cup to a soccer official indicted last week in the US, but said that the payment was not a bribe as US prosecutors allege.

The latest developments in the scandal engulfing Fifa came a day after Sepp Blatter stunned international soccer by resigning as the world body's president shortly before it emerged that he too was under investigation by US law enforcement. Mr Blatter was not on Interpol's list.

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A source close to Fifa said that it was Mr Blatter's advisers who had told him he must reverse course and quit. Critics pointed to the widening criminal probe, disquiet among sponsors, and pressure from European soccer body Uefa as possible reasons.

With Mr Blatter saying he no longer had the mandate he sought, Uefa postponed a meeting due on Saturday where there might have been talk of a revolt against Fifa.

Uefa had opposed Mr Blatter, and Michel Platini, the Uefa president who is favourite to succeed the 79-year-old Swiss national, had urged him not to stand for re-election as Fifa faced the worst crisis in its 111-year history. "Considering new information is revealed every day, I believe it is wiser to take time to assess the situation, so together we can take a position on this issue," Mr Platini, a former French soccer star, said.

As the Fifa crisis unfolds, Interpol, the international police body, issued wanted person alerts for Jack Warner, a former president of Concacaf, which governs football in North and Central America and the Caribbean, and Nicolas Leoz, the former head of South America's soccer federation.

The others subject to the so-called "red notices" - which are not arrest warrants - are Alejandro Burzaco, Hugo and Mariano Jinkis, and Jose Margulies, a Brazilian who headed two offshore companies that were involved in broadcasting soccer matches.

They are among soccer officials and sports media and promotion executives facing US corruption charges involving more than US$150 million in bribes. Fifa has denied that another senior official, secretary general Jerome Valcke, was involved in a US$10 million payment approved by the South African Football Association that lies at the heart of the US investigation.

At a news conference in Johannesburg, Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula denied the payment to Warner during South Africa's successful bid for the 2010 World Cup was a bribe. Mr Mbalula said that South Africa had not bought votes for the right to host the cup, and the cash was intended for football development in the Caribbean, Warner's home region.

US legal authorities last week announced they are investigating alleged bribery and corruption at Fifa going back 24 years and Swiss prosecutors announced a criminal investigation into the award of the 2018 World Cup to Russia and the 2022 tournament to Qatar.

Mr Blatter, who has led Fifa for 17 years, is being investigated by US prosecutors and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, a person who spoke on condition of anonymity told Reuters on Tuesday.

Mr Blatter has not been charged and Fifa did not respond to a request for comment on his being under investigation.

Mr Blatter announced his decision to step down on Tuesday, six days after police raided a hotel in the city and arrested several Fifa officials - and just four days after he was re-elected to a fifth term as president.

An election to choose a new president will probably not take place until at least December. Mr Blatter, meanwhile, remains in his position.

His daughter, Corinne Blatter-Andenmatten, told a Swiss newspaper her father's decision had "absolutely nothing" to do with recent corruption allegations.

European sports officials said that Mr Blatter's resignation was an important step, but that the organisation needed deeper changes, while New Zealand Football chief executive Andy Martin said that soccer must now rebuild its tattered reputation.

The Asian Football Confederation (AFC), which has been a staunch ally of Mr Blatter, said that it would discuss internally the "best way forward for both Fifa and world football".

As Mr Blatter announced his exit, English Football Association chairman Greg Dyke suggested that the controversial vote that awarded Qatar the 2022 tournament could be rerun.

Qatar Football Association president Hamad Bin Khalifa Bin Ahmed Al-Thani hit back, indicating the small Gulf state will not give up hosting soccer's showpiece event without a fight. "We would urge Mr Dyke to let the legal process take its course and concentrate on delivering his promise to build an England team capable of winning the 2022 World Cup in Qatar," he said.

Among potential candidates to lead Fifa, Mr Platini is the favourite. Jordan's Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, who withdrew from last week's presidential election after winning 73 votes to Mr Blatter's 133 in the first round, stopped short of confirming he would run again. Others could include former Brazil international Zico, Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona, Jerome Champagne, a former French diplomat and Fifa deputy secretary general, and German Wolfgang Niersbach, a former Fifa media chief. REUTERS