Some Iraq athletes will go to Olympics

BAGHDAD — The phone rang late last night, and Haider Nasir's world flipped once more.

"Congratulations," said Dr. Talib Faisal, the head of the interim Iraqi Track and Field Federation. "You're going to the Olympics."

Just six days ago, the 27-year-old discus thrower had been told his Olympic dreams were over — dashed by the International Olympic Committee's suspension of Iraq's National Olympic Committee.

But a seven-hour meeting ended 9 p.m. Tuesday in Lausanne, Switzerland with an agreement that will let Nasir and sprinter Dina Hussein compete at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.

Five other Iraqi athletes will not be allowed to compete, however, because the entry deadlines for their events have already passed.

An Iraqi negotiating team led by Ali al Dabbagh, chief spokesman of the Iraqi government, flew to Lausanne on Sunday to complete the agreement. An IOC spokeswoman said the accord was "not totally unexpected." Giselle Davies said the two sides had talked over the weekend and "and on that basis we invited them to Lausanne to formalize what had verbally been agreed."

"I feel so happy tonight I will not sleep," said Nasir, reached at his Najaf home. "I'm so happy! It's 180 degrees from what I was feeling before."

Nasir's coach, Saad Jasim, called him minutes after he got the news. "Be in Baghdad next week," he said. "We're training."

Iraq's participation in the Olympics had been in doubt since June, when the International Olympic Committee suspended the Iraqi National Olympic Committee for government interference after the Iraqi government replaced the NOC's members. The Iraqi government said the suspension was unfair and accused the NOC of not fulfilling its duties.

According to a statement on the IOC Web site, the agreement calls for the election of a new Iraqi NOC no later than the end of November. The election will be overseen by the IOC and the Olympic Council of Asia, in cooperation with the Iraqi government.

"Both parties were really pleased," said Emmanuelle Moreau, an IOC spokeswoman. "People were really happy." There was a formal signing ceremony; then, Moreau said, everybody shook hands.

The Iraqi forum on Koora, a popular Arabic sports Web site, lit up as soon as word got out. "Alif alif mabrook!" wrote one poster, Furat Ahmad: "One thousand thousand congratulations! This is a big victory over the conspirators against Iraqi sport."

Nasir flies to Beijing August 6.

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