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Even without Blatter, FIFA election shenanigans continue

Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa

FILE - In this Thursday, April 30, 2015 file photo, Asian Football Confederation President Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa leaves the AFC Congress in Manama, Bahrain. Al Khalifa is one of the five declared candidates that FIFA announced Thursday, Nov. 12, 2015 for the Feb. 26 election, with Michel Platini a potential sixth man. Platini’s candidature was not judged at this stage by the FIFA election committee pending his ethics case. (AP Photo/Hasan Jamali, file)

AP

LONDON (AP) FIFA presidential candidate Sheikh Salman bin Ibrahim al Khalifa dismissed a rival’s complaint about his election conduct as “entirely inaccurate” and warned on Saturday against public squabbling.

[ FOLLOW: All the latest FIFA news ]

Prince Ali bin al-Hussein has accused Bahrain’s Sheikh Salman of a “blatant attempt to engineer a bloc vote” by signing a pact between the Asian Football Confederation he leads and its counterpart in Africa. Jordanian federation president Prince Ali on Friday asked FIFA’s election watchdog to investigate whether election rules were broken.

But in a statement on Saturday, titled “An unnecessary spat between FIFA candidates,” Sheikh Salman insisted the Asia-Africa pact was being worked on months before he decided to run in the Feb. 26 election to replace Sepp Blatter.

“I am astonished about my friend’s comments, which are wholly dismissed and entirely inaccurate,” Sheikh Salman said.

[ MORE: New “Laws of the Game” approved, to be implemented at EURO 2016 ]

The Bahraini royal said that talks about the “memorandum of understanding” started when the general secretaries of the Asia and African governing bodies met in May. He noted that the AFC has similar cooperation agreements with FIFA and two other regional bodies: UEFA and CONCACAF.

“As AFC president, one of my duties is to seek development-knowhow sharing opportunities for the AFC around the world and to establish solid ties with like-minded football professionals,” the sheikh said.

[ MORE: World Cup votes sparked investigation that downed Blatter, Platini ]

Sheikh Salman and Prince Ali are competing against UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino, former FIFA official Jerome Champagne, and South African businessman Tokyo Sexwale in a five-man election field.

Prince Ali was beaten in May’s presidential election by Blatter, who announced resignation plans the following week in the wake of criminal investigations into FIFA officials, and was later banished from world soccer for eight years by the ethics judge.

Rob Harris can be followed at www.twitter.com/RobHarris and www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports