Blatter: FIFA received guarantees from Brazil

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By TALES AZZONI, Associated Press

BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) — Brazil reassured FIFA President Sepp Blatter on Friday that it will fulfill its commitments in preparing for the 2014 World Cup.

Blatter said he is leaving the country satisfied after a "good meeting" with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. He said FIFA and Rousseff agreed to work more closely together to keep work on track, and he is confident Brazil will host the best World Cup in history.

Blatter added that he will deal with the problem involving the Brazilian government and FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke, who was in charge of working with the government. The meeting came two weeks after Valcke made harsh remarks about Brazil's slow preparations.

Brazilian soccer greats Pele and Ronaldo also joined Blatter and Rousseff in the nation's capital. Brazil Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo, who threatened to cut the country's ties with Valcke, also attended. Pele is a World Cup ambassador and Ronaldo is a member of the local organizing committee.

"I'm happy with the outcome of this meeting," Blatter said. "You will see a smiling FIFA president and we are looking forward to a very good organization here."

He added: "The government will fulfill the requirements and guarantees given, and I trust Brazil."

The meeting with Blatter lasted a little more than an hour.

"It reaffirmed the common goal of Brazil and FIFA to host a great World Cup," Rebelo said.

FIFA had expressed concerns over delays by Brazil's Congress to approve a World Cup bill regulating the tournament and giving FIFA the financial and legal guarantees needed to organize the event.

The sticking point in the bill is the sale of alcohol inside stadiums, which is against the law in Brazil but is demanded by FIFA because Budweiser is a major World Cup sponsor. Despite Rousseff's assurances to Blatter on Friday, it remains up to Brazil's Congress to approve it.

But Blatter also got guarantees from congressmen that the bill's approval would likely happen soon. In a lunch with legislators after the meeting with Rousseff, the FIFA president said he was glad to see the congressmen were committed to pushing the bill through.

House leader Marco Maia said the government would do whatever is needed to make sure the bill is approved next week.

"We are confident that all the agreements will be fulfilled in their totality," Maia said.

The bill was one of the issues that prompted Valcke to make his remarks two weeks ago. Blatter asked for the meeting with Rousseff while apologizing for Valcke's comments, but he hinted the issue was not a main topic in Friday's meeting.

"Jerome Valcke continues to work for FIFA. The problem between Jerome Valcke and Brazil is a problem for FIFA's president, which the president has to solve," Blatter said.

Blatter said he needs more time before deciding if Valcke will remain FIFA's representative in Brazil.

Ronaldo called it an "excellent meeting," while Pele said it was important to help clear "all the misunderstandings."

"From now on we will move forward with harmony, without any mishaps," Pele said. "And I'm confident that we will host the best World Cup of all time."

With just one year before the Confederations Cup and two before the World Cup, FIFA was especially wary over some infrastructure projects and stadium construction work.

Blatter said it was normal for host countries to face stadium delays, but he expects Brazil to have all 12 venues ready in time.

"FIFA is not worried with the delays," he said.

Blatter also addressed the exit of Ricardo Teixeira, the embattled former head of Brazilian soccer who this week resigned from the Brazilian federation after 23 years in charge. He also resigned as president of the 2014 World Cup local organizing committee and was replaced by 79-year-old Jose Maria Marin, the former Sao Paulo state governor.

Blatter said the change was "natural and normal."

Teixeira, who remains a FIFA executive committee member, was accused of taking kickbacks from former FIFA marketing partner ISL in the 1990s. Blatter said recently he will release documents concerning the ISL case, which could implicate the Brazilian official. Teixeira denies any wrongdoing.

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