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Iran Won’t Wrestle With Israelis

March 5, 2000

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) _ Iranian wrestlers twice pulled out of bouts with Israeli opponents during weekend Olympic qualifying matches.

``Every tournament with Iran and Israel is like this,″ said Mario Saletnig, the technical delegate from FILA, the international federation that governs wrestling.

Iran cited medical excuses for its wrestlers during both Saturday matches. An injury default allows them to ``recover″ in time for their next match in a pool-play tournament, such as this qualifier.

The decision is up to the athletes, said Forozan Rossoukh, an assistant to the Iranian team who acted as interpreter. ``No one can dictate to them,″ he said.

The situation stems from Iran’s opposition toward Israel. Among other issues, Iran for years has rejected Israel’s right to nation status. If an Iranian competed against an Israeli, it might be interpreted by some as recognition of Israel as a country.

``If they ever met in the gold-medal match at the Olympics, Iran would not show up,″ said Saletnig, who has been involved with wrestling for 33 years.

The Iranian wrestlers left without comment.

Israeli wrestling coach David Natis said the Iranians started pulling out of matches in the early 1980s.

``There’s never been an incident, and it’s not personal. But everybody knows about it,″ Natis said.

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