March 24, 2016 / 6:02 PM / 2 years ago

IOC says ready to sign draft Kuwait deals to lift ban

A general view of the Kuwait Olympics Committee and Sports Federation in Kuwait City in this June 28, 2009 file photo. REUTERS/Tariq AlAli/Files

BERLIN (Reuters) - The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is ready to sign either of two draft deals it says it had agreed in principle with Kuwait that would lift the ban on the country competing at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics, it said on Thursday.

Kuwait has rejected the deals which were hammered out in negotiations involving the United Nations in January.

The IOC said Kuwait’s negotiators had initially agreed to the deals twice, only to be told by their government not to sign.

Kuwait officials denied they had ever agreed to those deals, which demanded changes in national laws. They accused the IOC of distorting facts.

The dispute between the IOC and Kuwait centers on a new sports law that the Olympic body says will undermine the autonomy of sport in the country. Kuwait argues it will strengthen the independence of sports bodies.

“We are still happy to accept either of those offers brokered under the auspices of the United Nations,” said IOC spokesman Mark Adams. “We would be happy to sign them tomorrow.”

Adams said the IOC had been surprised by Kuwait’s reaction to the outcome of the January talks and that the country had blamed the Olympic body for not reaching an agreement.

“We were quite surprised by what they have been saying, particularly about the negotiations,” Adams told Reuters.

”The United Nations twice brokered a solution which was agreed in principle by both sides...

“All parties have the documents provided by the United Nations on official UN headed paper,” he said.   

Kuwait was suspended from the Olympics in October 2015, for the second time in five years.

If the ban remains in place for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August, Kuwaiti athletes will not be able to compete under their own flag but will have to do so under the Olympic flag.

Adams said that whatever the outcome, the IOC would make sure Kuwaiti athletes would be in Rio.

“In any case we are ready to protect the Kuwaiti athletes, and we are working on a solution for them to take part in the Olympic Games, with the IOC Executive Board ready to take a decision in June so they can compete under the Olympic flag,” he said.

Kuwaiti officials could not be immediately reached for a comment.

The country’s soccer federation has also been suspended by world soccer’s governing body FIFA over government interference.

Reporting by Karolos Grohmann; editing by Toby Davis

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