Iran bars friendly visit by U.S. soccer team
TEHRAN, July 4 (Reuters) - Iran has barred a visit by a U.S. soccer
team for friendly matches on the free trade island of Kish later this month,
a Kish official said on Tuesday.
The foreign ministry move retaliated for attempts by U.S. immigration
officials to fingerprint Iranians visiting the United States, he told Reuters.
Foreign ministry officials could not be reached for comment.
The Charlotte Eagles of North Carolina were due to play three Iranian
teams at a tournament on the Gulf island in mid-July, according to the
He said the U.S. team had been due to fly in from Dubai in the United
Arab Emirates across the Gulf.
Tehran has denounced Washington for seeking to fingerprint Iranians
on arrival to the United States, part of a U.S. policy toward citizens
of countries it accuses of supporting terrorism.
Several groups of Iranian athletes and scholars have in the past pulled
out of tournaments or seminars in American cities to protest against such
The Iranian foreign ministry has been under pressure from powerful hardliners
to take similar action against American citizens visiting the Islamic republic.
The United States, which severed relations with Iran two decades ago
when the pro-Western shah was overthrown in an Islamic revolution, has
encouraged greater informal contact with contemporary Iran under reformist
President Mohammad Khatami.
But Washington's initial enthusiasm has dampened as Tehran continues
to rebuff U.S. overtures for official contact leading towards improved
U.S. officials waived the fingerprinting in January to allow a friendly
soccer match between the two countries in Pasadena, California. But they
have been non-committal about the policy since then.