Iraq invited back to Beijing

July 29, 2008 1:59:37 PM PDT
The International Olympic Committee ruled Tuesday that Iraq could participate in the Beijing games, reversing itself after the government pledged to ensure the independence of its national Olympics panel. The decision followed last-minute talks between Iraqi officials and the IOC in Lausanne, Switzerland, before a Wednesday deadline to submit competitors' names for the athletics events and 10 days before the opening ceremony in Beijing.

Iraq's National Olympic Committee was dissolved by the Baghdad government in May, prompting the IOC to suspend the Mideast country from the Olympics for political interference.

The IOC had insisted the old committee be reinstated even though four members were kidnapped two years ago. Their fates remain unknown.

A compromise was worked out after mediators from Germany and China became involved in talks.

Iraq is expected to send two athletes to Beijing. Five other hopefuls in archery, judo, rowing and weightlifting lost their chance to compete when a deadline to select teams for other sports passed with no break in the stalemate.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.) AP-NY-07-29-08 1631EDT