Rogge: Talks continue on Saudi women at Olympics

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By JIM HEINTZ, Associated Press

MOSCOW (AP) — The International Olympic Committee is still talking to Saudi Arabia about sending women to the London Games, despite a report that the conservative Muslim country's national Olympic committee resists the idea.

IOC President Jacques Rogge also said at a news conference on Sunday that the head of Syria's Olympic committee has been invited to the summer games, but that it will be up to Britain to decide whether to admit him.

Rogge's comments came 10 days after a Saudi newspaper reported that national Olympic committee President Prince Nawaf does "not approve" of sending female athletes.

"We're still discussing (this) with our colleague on the Saudi national Olympic committee. This is an ongoing discussion, but it is a bit too soon to come to conclusions," Rogge said.

Saudi Arabia is one of three countries that have never included women on their Olympic teams, along with Qatar and Brunei. The IOC has been hopeful that all three would send female representatives to London, marking the first time for every competing nation.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said last month that officials of the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad who are on a European Union travel-ban list would be blocked from attending the July 27-Aug. 12 London games.

Syrian national Olympic committee head Gen. Mowaffak Joumaa is not on that list, which was established as punishment for the Assad regime's violent crackdown on opposition. But Joumaa is a close Assad aide and Britain's Home Office can deny entry if it feels an individual's presence would not be "conducive to the public good."

"All Olympic committees are invited to participate in the games and of course their president is also invited," Rogge said. But "in a press conference with the prime minister of the United Kingdom Mr. Cameron it was made very clear that only people who are, I would say, vetted by the European Union would be allowed in the territory of the United Kingdom because this is a common practice."

Rogge was in Moscow for a meeting of the Association of national Olympic Committees. Joumaa also was at the meeting and told The Associated Press earlier that he planned to go to the London Games.

The meeting also heard an upbeat, detailed report from London organizing committee head Sebastian Coe on games preparations with little more than 100 days to go before the opening.

"We are running on time, our permanent venues are built," Coe said. "We have a balanced budget ... and we have achieved that in the toxicity as most of you will recognize of probably the worst economic climate that any games within most of our memories has been delivered in."

"We're not complacent, but we are confident," he said.

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