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Iran urges Canada not to use soccer friendly match as 'political plaything’

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh (Photo by Fars news agency)

Iran has strongly denounced attempts by the Canadian government to scuttle a friendly match between the national Iranian men's football team and Canada in preparation for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, stating that the sporting event must not be used as a political plaything.

“The match has been coordinated independently by the soccer federations of the two countries, within the framework of the usual  preparation matches, and Canada Soccer has announced that it is determined to host this purely sporting event by preventing any political abuse by known anti-Iran groups,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said on Tuesday. 

"Unfortunately, contrary to the theatrical claims, the most sporting issues seem to have become a plaything of partisan orientations and political partitioning within Canada. The negative stances and statements of the Prime Minister of Canada and some others indicate the predominance of a purely political and partisan view in all aspects of governance in Canada, and therefore the behavior of the Canadian authorities in public easily becomes a plaything of opposition and Iranophobic groups," it said. 

“The Canadian government and Canada Soccer are expected to facilitate this preparatory and friendly fixture, free from political motivations and propaganda blackmail by opponents of non-political interactions between people, in accordance with the professional charter of sports and recognized FIFA principles," it added. 

Khatibzadeh also said, "The Football Federation of the Islamic Republic of Iran has assured us that it has made all the necessary agreements with Canada Soccer within this framework, and in case of violation of the agreements, the Canadian side will be responsible for all the consequences."

Iran and Canada have both qualified for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, and will have to play warm-up matches as part of preparation for the prestigious event.

Canada Soccer has invited the national Iranian soccer team to play the Canadian squad in a June 5 match in Vancouver.

Iran are pitted against England, the US and one of Ukraine, Scotland or Wales in Group B.

Canada are in Group F along with Belgium, Croatia, and Morocco.

Intl. action against Israeli attacks on Syria

Elsewhere in his remarks, Khatibzadeh condemned repeated Israeli acts of aggression against Syria, calling on international organizations to give a decisive response to the Tel Aviv regime’s crimes.

He stated that international indifference to incessant Israeli strikes on Syria has further emboldened the occupying regime to press ahead with aggression and brazenly violate international rules and regulations.

“No doubt the United States’ overt and covert support play an important role in emboldening the occupying regime to not only continue occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights, but also to launch aerial and missile attacks on Syria’s state and public infrastructure repeatedly,” the spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry highlighted.

Khatibzadeh also condemned Israel’s recent missile strikes on the suburbs of Damascus, saying the regime’s military is acting as the air force of terrorist groups wreaking havoc inside Syria.

He said Israel launches attacks whenever the Syrian army scores a victory against terror outfits.

The senior Iranian official also underlined the need for a strong response to Israel's acts of aggression both on the battle field and at the international level.

At least three people were killed after Israel launched a string of airstrikes on the outskirts of Damascus late on Friday.

Syria’s official news agency SANA reported that the attack took place at around 23:01 local time on Friday (20:01 GMT on Saturday) when the Israeli army launched a barrage of surface-to-surface missiles at targets on the southern outskirts of Damascus.

Syria has been gripped by foreign-backed militancy since March 2011. The Syrian government says the Israeli regime and its Western and regional allies are aiding Takfiri terrorist groups that are wreaking havoc in the country.

Israel frequently targets military positions inside Syria, especially those of the resistance movement Hezbollah which has played a key role in helping the Syrian army in its fight against the foreign-backed terrorists.

The Tel Aviv regime mostly keeps quiet about its attacks on Syrian territories which many view as a knee-jerk reaction to the Syrian government’s increasing success in confronting terrorism.

Israel has been a key supporter of terrorist groups that have opposed the government of President Bashar al-Assad since the foreign-backed militancy erupted in Syria.

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