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Qatar likely to be stripped of 2022 FIFA World Cup responsibilty

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London: According to a FIFA whistleblower, Qatar is likely be stripped of the 2022 World Cup. She was a former senior figure in the country’s bid team.

Phaedra Almajid, who turned whistleblower to expose the corruption, has said that the abundance of evidence of wrongdoing of Qatar’s bid would force world football’s governing body FIFA to strip the Gulf country of the responsibility.

Almajid is an Arab-American based in the United States and she had worked for Qatar’s 2022 bid team till early 2010.

Qatar shocked the world by winning the right to stage the 2022 event in 2010. Since then allegations of bribery and wrongdoing about their bid have been rife within FIFA.

Almajid said that she hoped justice is done but the prospect scares her a lot as she fears some “extremists” may hold her responsible if Qatar is stripped. She is under protective custody of America’s Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) but fears for her safety, if the oil-rich country lose out on hosting rights.

“There are people who are p***** off with me (for speaking out), and what really p***** them off is that I’m a female, Muslim whistleblower,” Almajid was quoted as saying by dailymail.co.uk on Saturday.

She also said that outgoing FIFA president Sepp Blatter might take away the 2022 tournament from 2022 as part of his reform agenda to win him praise “and save his skin”.

Blatter quit days after winning a fifth four-year team to become president after getting engulfed in the FIFA corruption scandal. He is under investigation by the FBI for possible wrongdoing.

“I just don’t think Blatter actually intends to quit. Everything he does is very calculated. He’ll try very hard to save himself, I’m sure of it,” Almajid said.

The FBI arrested seven top FIFA officials and indicted 14 people for financial misdemeanor. Almajid said that efforts to force her into retracting her comments have taken place earlier, which forced her to take protective custody for the fear of her family’s safety that includes two children, one of them severely disabled.

“The FBI have everything,” she claimed.

Almajid also co-operated with a FIFA-funded probe led by Michael Garcia, a former US attorney for New York. (IANS)

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Taliban Seeking Recognition of Qatar Office Ahead of Fresh Talks With US

No government envoys attended the Moscow meeting because the Taliban refuses to talk to Afghan officials.

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Taliban, Qatar
FILE - In this photo released by the Afghan Presidential Palace, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, center, speaks to U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, third left, at the presidential palace in Kabul, Afghanistan, Jan. 28, 2019. VOA

The Taliban says it hopes ongoing negotiations with the United States would bring a long-demanded formal recognition for the insurgent group’s “political office” in Qatar, insisting it would help accelerate consultations over the endgame in the Afghan war.

The Taliban has been informally running the office in Doha, the Qatari capital, since 2013, but the host country has not allowed it to use the facility for any public dealings under objections from the Afghan government.

U.S. special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, and his team in recent months have held several meetings with Taliban envoys mostly in Doha. The two sides are set to meet there again on Feb. 25 to build on “significant progress” they made in six days of marathon talks in January.

Suhail Shaheen, the spokesman for the Taliban’s political office, in an interview told VOA that all their meetings with U.S. interlocutors and other foreign delegations take place in different hotels, making it difficult for his group to timely share details or progress with media.

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FILE – Suhail Shaheen, then-deputy ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, gives an interview in Islamabad, Pakistan, Nov. 14, 2001. VOA

“We have raised this issue the U.S. delegation,” he said.

Shaheen noted that the Taliban last week held its first formal “intra-Afghan” dialogue in Moscow with a large group of prominent opposition leaders from Afghanistan, and a follow-up meeting of those consultations is scheduled for next month in Doha.

“The delegation from Afghanistan, of course, would come to the office (if it is recognized) and we will have a meeting with them and exchange views about the current peace process and how the Afghan issue can be resolved,” he observed.

No government envoys attended the Moscow meeting because the Taliban refuses to talk to Afghan officials, declaring the Kabul administration an illegal entity or American “puppets.” The rigid insurgent stance has also forced the U.S. to exclude President Ashraf Ghani from the dialogue process.

Ghani slammed the gathering in the Russian capital as an unauthorized dialogue and an attempt by his political opponents to gain power.

On Monday, Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, while addressing a weekly meeting of cabinet ministers, blamed “stubbornness of the Taliban” for being the main and only reason behind the war. He criticized the insurgent group for indulging in “propaganda” instead of joining “real talks” with the government. He did not elaborate.

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FILE – Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah speaks during a press conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, Feb. 4, 2019. VOA

Abdullah’s remarks came a day after President Ghani made an offer to the Taliban to open an office in Afghanistan for conducting talks with his government.

Shaheen dismissed the offer and criticism as an attempt to “harm and derail” the current peace process. “Afghanistan is our own country and we don’t need permission from anyone to open an office there. By making such offers at this stage, they [Ghani government] are trying to harm the peace efforts,” Shaheen said.

The Taliban controls or influences nearly half of Afghanistan, but its leaders and fighters remain under attack from U.S.-backed Afghan ground and air forces. The insurgent group is opposed to ceasing its battlefield attacks until all foreign forces withdraw from the country.

Khalilzad, while delivering a public talk in Washington last week, said that after many conversations, the U.S. has reached “an agreement in principle” with the Taliban on a framework that would provide guarantees that no terrorist group or individuals would be able to use Afghan soil for attacks against the U.S. and its allies.

“Similarly, we have agreed in principle on a framework for possible U.S. [troop] withdrawal as part of a package deal,” he noted.

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Taliban spokesman Shaheen said that both sides also agreed to appoint two working groups to flesh out these undertakings and bring them to the table for the meeting scheduled for this month in Doha. He anticipated further progress in the upcoming round of talks and vowed to again raise with U.S. delegates the issue of granting formal recognition to the Taliban’s office, because his group is determined to carry forward Afghan peace talks in Doha.

There was no U.S. response available to the Taliban’s demand. (VOA)