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Britain refuses visa for Syria Olympic chief
Britain has refused to issue a visa for the head of Syria's National Olympic Committee, General Mowaffak Joumaa, to travel to London for next month's Olympic Games, the BBC said on Friday.
June 24, 2012 10:25 by Reuters
Britain has refused to issue a visa for the head of Syria’s National Olympic Committee, General Mowaffak Joumaa, to travel to London for next month’s Olympic Games, the BBC said on Friday.
Mowaffak is regarded as a close friend of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has been strongly criticised by the British government and other Western and Arab nations for a crackdown on an opposition movement seeking his overthrow.
The British Home Office (interior ministry) and Foreign Office declined to comment, saying they do not discuss individual cases.
Pressure has mounted over Joumaa’s attendance since Syrian opposition activists urged Britain to ban him.
Syria was expected to send four or five officials to the Olympics, including Joumaa, an International Olympic Committee (IOC) official has said.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said in March any of the country’s officials covered by a European Union travel ban would not be welcome. He also said there would be no ban against Syrian athletes taking part.
A handful of athletes are expected to qualify, mainly in athletics and swimming, and they will march into the stadium under the Syrian flag, the IOC official said.
(Reporting by Avril Ormsby; Editing by Angus MacSwan)