FIFA open crisis talks

Sepp Blatter (AFP)
Sepp Blatter (AFP)

Marrakech - FIFA president Sepp Blatter opened a meeting of his 25-member executive committee on Thursday amid a storm of controversy over an inquiry into the bids by Russia and Qatar for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

With a vote on the FIFA leadership looming next year, football's governing body has been stung by the resignation of its leading corruption investigator, top US lawyer Michael Garcia, over the handling of his report.

European media reports have said a vote may be held on Friday on a proposal to publish the report, but Blatter has insisted so far that it cannot be published for legal reasons.

The FIFA president has said that Garcia's report will be at the centre of the two-day executive meeting in Marrakech, although no official details of the agenda have been given.

Garcia quit as head of FIFA's investigation chamber on Wednesday, hitting out at the "lack of leadership" by FIFA over the inquiry into the bids by Qatar and Russia.

Qatar, which has been the focus of corruption allegations, has strongly denied any wrongdoing in its successful campaign for the 2022 World Cup.

In his resignation statement, Garcia said however that he had found "serious and wide-ranging issues" in the bid process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups.

He resigned in protest at the summary of his report released by FIFA judge Hans-Joachim Eckert, who said no corruption was found and that no new votes are necessary.

FIFA rejected his appeal against the summary on Tuesday, declaring it "not admissible".

Blatter said he was "surprised" at the resignation but has made little comment about the next steps in the dispute that has led to widespread condemnation of FIFA's leadership.

UEFA president Michel Platini said that Garcia's resignation was a "new failure" by the world game's governing body.

Platini is an outspoken critic of Blatter and has called on him to stand down when his current term ends in May.

Blatter, 78, has said he will stand for a fifth term at a FIFA congress next year and is firm favourite to win.

The two-day meeting broke up late Thursday with no top-level officials willing to comment, said an AFP journalist at the venue.

A news conference is scheduled for Friday afternoon in Marrakech where the issue of the 2018 and 2022 World Cups is certain to dominate.

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