Top US diplomat criticizes FIFA armband threat at World Cup

The top U.S. diplomat on Tuesday criticized a decision by FIFA to threaten players at the World Cup with yellow cards if they wear armbands supporting inclusion and diversity.

“It’s always a concern when we see any restrictions on freedom of expression …,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at a news conference alongside his Qatari counterpart.

“This is especially true when diversity and inclusion are expressed,” Blinken said at the Diplomatic Club in Doha. “In my judgment, at least no one on the football field should be compelled to be involved in supporting those values ​​and playing for their team. choose between.”

FIFA did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Blinken’s remarks.

Just hours before the first players to wear armbands in support of the One Love movement took to the field on Monday, football’s governing body warned they would be shown immediate yellow cards – two of which resulted in the ejection of a player and the dismissal of a player. Down.

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No players wore the “One Love” armbands on Monday, although seven European teams said they planned to wear them ahead of games. England’s Harry Kane wore the FIFA-sanctioned “non-discrimination” armband, which was offered as a compromise against Iran.

Blinken arrived in Qatar on Monday, where he visited a youth soccer program linked to the World Cup. He later watched the United States play against Wales on Monday night.

While publicly criticizing FIFA, Blinken has taken a more cautious approach to Qatar. The energy-rich Middle Eastern nation faced criticism ahead of the race for its treatment of migrant labor and the criminalization of homosexuality.

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“We know that this World Cup would not be possible without workers, including many migrant workers,” Blinken said. “Qatar has made significant strides in its labor laws in recent years to expand workers’ rights.”

However, he added: “There is still real work to be done on these issues, and the United States will continue to work with Qatar to strengthen labor and human rights more broadly long after the World Cup.”

Blinken spoke at a news conference alongside Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani.

Blinken’s visit was part of a strategic dialogue with Qatar, which also hosts about 8,000 U.S. troops at its sprawling al-Udeid air base, the forward headquarters of the U.S. military’s Central Command. The base is a key node in the chaotic 2021 withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and the evacuation of Afghan civilians.

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A major issue to discuss is Iran. Nonproliferation experts say Iran now has enough uranium enriched up to 60% – just a small step away from weapons-grade levels – to reprocess it into fuel for nuclear weapons if it chooses to do so.

Tehran insists its plans are peaceful, even though it has expanded them dramatically since a nuclear deal with world powers collapsed in 2015.

Meanwhile, Iran is being rocked by months of protests following the Sept. 16 death of a 22-year-old woman who was earlier arrested by the country’s morality police.

Authorities’ crackdown and violence surrounding the demonstrations have killed at least 434 people, according to Iranian human rights activists who have been following the protests. Iran is also in the World Cup and will face the United States on November 29.

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