ATHENS, Greece (AP) The IOC provisionally suspended Iraq's national Olympic committee Wednesday for "political interference" by the government, a decision that leaves Iraqi athletes in danger of missing the Beijing Games.
The International Olympic Committee's executive board took the action because the Iraqi government recently dissolved the national Olympic body and appointed an interim group presided over by the minister of sport.
"The Iraqi national Olympic committee is suspended on a provisional basis ... as a protective measure due to the interferences from the Iraqi government authorities," the IOC said in a statement.
In Baghdad, Iraq's government issued a statement promising to send envoys to the meeting and saying it was "fully confident" that "the suspension will be lifted." More than a dozen Iraqi athletes have either qualified for Beijing or been invited.
The IOC said it does not recognize any interim committee and supports only the "legitimately elected" body. It called on the Iraqi government to "analyze the situation and find appropriate solutions" in line with the rules of the Olympic Charter.
"The IOC will continue to look for ways to help Iraqi athletes, although the situation created by the Iraqi government authorities makes the task very difficult," it said.
The IOC did not say whether it would consider allowing any Iraqi athletes who qualify for Beijing to compete in the Aug. 8-24 Games under the Olympic flag.
"Today it is not clear," IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies said. "It depends on if a solution can be found, which we certainly hope it can."
"Ultimately we hope to find solutions and now we will invite the Iraqi government representatives, along with the Olympic council of Asia and those involved, to sit and discuss," she said.
The Iraqi government ordered the dissolution of the national body May 20. It claimed the committee was illegitimate because it could not reach a quorum since four of its 11 members, including chairman Ahmed al-Hijija, were kidnapped in Baghdad in 2006. There has been no word on their fates.
The government also has accused the nation's Olympic committee of corruption, while supporters of the body say officials simply want to install their own people in the lucrative and prestigious posts.
The Youth and Sports Ministry is dominated by Shiites, while the Olympic Committee includes several Sunni holdovers from the Saddam Hussein era.
Last week, soccer's governing body lifted an international ban on Iraq, keeping alive its World Cup qualifying hopes. The FIFA ban followed the Iraqi government's decision to dissolve the national Olympic committee along with all sports federations.
The ban was provisionally lifted after FIFA received a letter from an Iraqi Cabinet official saying the Iraqi soccer federation had been excluded from the government action. But FIFA said the ban could be reimposed if Iraqi authorities did not fully address its concerns.