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Qatar confident of remaining World Cup host

The Associated Press

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) -- Qatar said Sunday it is confident it will retain the rights to host the 2022 World Cup following new allegations that an official from the country used his high-level contacts to help win support for the OPEC member's bid.

Questions about the integrity of natural-gas rich Qatar's win have swirled since the 2010 vote. Its winning proposal has come under renewed scrutiny in the run-up to this year's World Cup in Brazil after Britain's The Sunday Times last week disclosed what it alleged were $5 million in payments Qatari Mohammed Bin Hammam made to build support for Qatar's bid.

Qatar has denied wrongdoing and insisted that Bin Hammam played no official or unofficial role in its bid.

The paper on Saturday published new allegations surrounding Bin Hammam, a onetime member of FIFA's executive committee and president of the Asian Football Confederation. He has since been expelled from FIFA for corruption.

Among the latest allegations were charges that Bin Hammam arranged government-level talks for Thailand's FIFA executive Worawi Makudi to discuss a natural gas sale that the paper said was ''potentially worth tens of millions of dollars to Thailand,'' and was invited by Vladimir Putin to discuss sports-related relations between Russia and Qatar before their victories in the votes for the 2018 and 2022 World Cups. The newspaper also alleged he made payments of $1.7 million to win support from Asian officials.

The Qatar 2022 Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy said Sunday that it stands by a statement issued last week denying any impropriety in securing rights to host the tournament. It added that it has fully cooperated with an ongoing investigation into the 2018 and 2022 bid process.

''Consistent with FIFA's rules we have been asked to refrain from commentingon the investigation and we will comply with that request,'' it said. ''Qatar has won the bid on its merits and we are confident that at the end of the appropriate process, the award of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar will stand.''

A FIFA investigation into the winning bids from Russia and Qatar is expected to finish this week. FIFA's ethics investigator, Michael Garcia, a former U.S. Attorney in New York, plans to deliver his findings by July.

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