Blatter resists quit calls, top ally resigns

FIFA president Sepp Blatter ruled out a European Parliament demand for him to quit immediately, but one of his top lieutenants did resign from the embattled organisation.

Blatter resigned last week despite being re-elected as head of football’s world governing body, which has been consumed by an ever-widening corruption probe, but intends to continue in office until a successor is designated, probably by the end of the year.

“FIFA is perplexed by the European Parliament’s resolution,” a FIFA spokesman said.

“As is well known, following his re-election, the FIFA president already decided, owing to the special circumstances in which FIFA finds itself, to lay down his mandate at an extraordinary elective congress.”

The European Parliament had called on Blatter to step down immediately and allow for an interim leader to launch reforms in the organisation.

In a show of hands, lawmakers overwhelmingly voted for the resolution in Strasbourg, France.

The FIFA spokesman added: “The president is focused on ensuring that at this congress, which he is demanding, imperative reforms are passed and a new president elected.”

The date for that congress will be set at an executive committee meeting in Zurich on July 20.

Meanwhile, FIFA director of communications and public affairs Walter De Gregorio resigned from his position with immediate effect.

His deputy has been named as an interim replacement.

De Gregorio, who FIFA said will continue to serve “on a consultancy basis” until the end of the year, had been in the position since 2011 and was present when Blatter announced his resignation on June 2.

“Walter has worked incredibly hard for the past four years and we are immensely grateful for all he has done. I am glad we will be able to continue to draw on his expertise until the end of the year,” FIFA Secretary General Jerome Valcke said in a statement.

Some media reports suggested that De Gregorio had fallen on his sword after making a joke about the FIFA crisis on Swiss TV.

De Gregorio reportedly joked to an interviewer: “The FIFA president, Sepp Blatter, the director of communications and the general secretary are all sitting in a car -– who is driving? The police.”

– Argentines at large –

Two Argentine businessmen wanted on US charges of bribing FIFA officials, meanwhile, refused to surrender and demanded they be allowed to remain free while they fight extradition.

Father and son marketing executives Hugo and Mariano Jinkis, who are currently in Argentina, have asked a federal court to allow them to remain free and will not hand themselves in unless they exhaust all legal options, their lawyers said.

The Jinkises, the owners of sports marketing company Full Play, are among the 14 football officials and marketing executives indicted by the United States.

They are among the last suspects still at large, along with Brazilian businessman Jose Margulies.

Italian-Argentine businessman Alejandro Burzaco handed himself in to police in Italy Tuesday and is under house arrest.

Football’s governing body has been in the grip of a crisis since the end of May when 14 current or former FIFA officials and sports marketing executives were charged following a wave of arrests in Zurich as part of a US investigation into alleged corruption.

The scandal has also cast doubt on the fairness of the bidding process for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups to be staged in Russia and Qatar respectively.

But Qatar won support from Gulf Cooperation Council foreign ministers who hit out at the “hateful campaign” directed against the 2022 World Cup.

In a sign of the wide-reaching implications of the scandal, Paraguay’s Congress voted on Thursday to lift the immunity of South American football confederation CONMEBOL’s headquarters.

Under a special law, the confederation’s building on the outskirts of Asuncion had enjoyed the same immunity as foreign diplomatic missions since it opened in 1997.

An educational charity launched by Pope Francis also said Thursday it will no longer accept money from CONMEBOL until allegations of massive corruption in world football are laid to rest.


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