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 March 19, 2002 | 1250 IST

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Blatter confident of remaining FIFA president

Sepp Blatter, who has come under fire in recent weeks over allegations of financial mismanagement and vote-rigging, said on Monday that he expected to remain as president of world soccer's governing body FIFA.

"I am very confident that in a year I will still be at the head of FIFA, that I will still continue to be able to continue my activities at FIFA," Blatter said in an interview on Swiss television.

Blatter, 66, faces a fight to retain his position after Cameroon's Issa Hayatou, 55, president of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), declared his candidacy on Saturday for world soccer's top job. A decision is due at the FIFA Congress in May.

Blatter rejected the allegations of financial mismanagement and vote-rigging, saying such comments made him sad.

He said the allegations arose from infighting within the ranks of world soccer.

Blatter also dismissed allegations FIFA faced severe financial trouble following the collapse last year of the ruling body's marketing agent ISL-ISMM.

He said any talk of FIFA being in financial difficulty was "nothing else other than a very, very liberal interpretation of the truth".

At an extraordinary meeting of the Executive Committee earlier this month, it was agreed that an internal audit of FIFA's finances should be set up. The decision was seen as a major defeat for Blatter.

But the president said he had recommended that FIFA have an internal audit "as is customary in companies".

Blatter was elected FIFA president in 1998, beating UEFA president Lennart Johansson by 111-80 votes at the FIFA Congress in Paris.

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