February 12, 2016 / 8:12 AM / 2 years ago

FIFA candidate Salman signs amended human rights pledge

FIFA presidential candidate Sheikh Salman Bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa attends an interview with Reuters in Panama City, Panama, January 8, 2016.Rafael Ibarra/Files

(Reuters) - FIFA presidential candidate Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa has signed an amended version of an Amnesty International pledge to end human rights abuses and corruption in the sport should he win election to soccer's top job later this month.

The Asian Football Confederation president changed the wording of the motion, agreed with Human Rights Watch and other NGOs, and sent to all five candidates vying to succeed Sepp Blatter in the Feb. 26 vote.

The Bahraini Royal said he had removed individual references to the Russia 2018 and Qatar 2022 World Cups, and abuses against women and LGBT groups, to ensure wider scope to his commitment should he take office.

"If we make a statement about equal rights and equal opportunities, it is obvious that we must practice an all-encompassing approach, which include all minorities and not solely those that were mentioned by Human Rights Watch in their original Pledge," he said in a statement on Friday.

"I am of the view that we must not be selective in any area that concerns human rights."

The statement said Salman handed a signed copy of the commitment to EU Commissioner for Youth, Culture and Sport Tibor Navracsics in Belgium on Wednesday ahead of Amnesty's Saturday deadline.

The Bahraini royal has received strong backing for his campaign to succeed Blatter having received the public support of the 53-member African Confederation and his own 47-member Asian bloc in the vote of 209 FIFA members.

Salman has long denied claims from human rights groups that he was involved in the abuse of Bahraini players after the 2011 uprising in his country.

Salman faces competition from Swiss-Italian Gianni Infantino, Prince Al bin Al Hussein of Jordan, South African businessman Tokyo Sexwale and former FIFA general secretary Jerome Champagne in the FIFA vote to succeed Blatter, who was banned from football for eight years in December.

The organisation is mired in the worst crisis in its 111-year history, with corruption investigations under way in Switzerland and the United States. Several dozen people, including senior soccer officials, have been indicted on financial malpractice and money laundering.

Writing by Patrick Johnston in Singapore

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