(Reuters) - The Iraq Football Association (IFA) have pledged their support for Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein in next month’s FIFA presidential election, the Jordanian royal said on Wednesday.
Ali will stand against Asian Football Confederation (AFC)President Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa, former FIFA deputy general secretary Jerome Champagne of France, South African businessman and politician Tokyo Sexwale and UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino in the Feb. 26 vote.
“The FA has endorsed Prince Ali in a letter to FIFA,” IFA president Abdul Khaliq Masood said in a statement published by Ali’s bid team.
“We have decided that Iraq’s vote will go to Prince Ali because Prince Ali has always supported the development of football in Iraq, Jordan and our region.”
Ali hosted a delegation from Iraq including Masood and Iraq Minister of Sports and Youth Abdul Hussein Abtan on Monday as he attempts to drum up support ahead of the election to decide who will succeed Sepp Blatter as president of the scandal-hit body.
Blatter, who beat Ali in the most recent FIFA presidential election last May, and UEFA President Michel Platini were both handed eight-year bans from football last month for ethics violations.
Both deny any wrongdoing but their absence has left the global game leaderless as it tries to dig itself out of a slew of corruption cases, with criminal investigations under way in the United States and Switzerland.
Ali returned to Jordan at the start of the week to meet the Iraqi delegation after campaigning in Africa and the Caribbean, where his team said he “picked up private commitments of support from several other nations”.
Rival Infantino said previously he had major support in the Caribbean region, which has 25 votes in the 209-member election being held in Zurich.
Salman is expected to win the bulk of support among the AFC’s 46 members after the regional body’s executive committee passed a resolution in November urging all Asian representatives to vote for the Bahraini.
Abtan, though, told Iraqi state television that his country would back Ali.
“We are very pleased to support Prince Ali. He is the best man for the job. We greatly appreciate everything Jordan has done to support Iraqi sports and youth over the years,” he told Iraq state television.
Ali said he had held discussions with Abtan and Masood over the lifting of a ban that prevents Iraq from hosting home international matches.
Writing by Patrick Johnston in Singapore; Editing by John O'Brien