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Iraq hosts friendly tournament after 3-decade FIFA ban

Turkey U20 Worlds Soccer

Iraq’s Ali Qasim, left, celebrates with team mates after the Under-20 World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Iraq and Paraguay, in Antalya, Turkey, Wednesday, July 3, 2013. Iraq defeated Paraguay 1-0. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

AP

BAGHDAD (AP) Iraq is hosting a friendly soccer tournament this week, with Syria and Qatar.

It comes just days after FIFA lifted a three-decade-long ban on Iraq hosting international competitions.

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An Iraq-Qatar match is to start Wednesday evening in the southern city of Basra.

FIFA lifted the ban on Monday for Iraqi cities of Basra, Karbala and Irbil, considered to be the safest in Iraq - but not the capital, Baghdad, which still sees frequent militant attacks.

Iraq’s minister of youth and sports, Abdul-Hussein Abtan, congratulated the Iraqi people following FIFA’s move and said it would change how Iraq is viewed in the region and beyond.

While the ban was in place, Iraq was still able to host friendly games and tournaments.