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   29 May, 2002 | 1405 IST


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Blatter re-elected as president

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Sepp Blatter was re-elected as FIFA president on Wednesday when he defeated Cameroon's Issa Hayatou after a bruising campaign that exposed deep rifts in world soccer's governing body.

Blatter, a 66-year-old Swiss, secured a second four-year term by 139 votes to 56 over his 55-year-old rival in a secret ballot held during a congress of FIFA's national associations in Seoul, two days before the start of the World Cup finals being co-hosted by South Korea and Japan.

The no-holds-barred election campaign was dominated by allegations of corruption and mismanagement leveled against Blatter, whom critics accuse of plunging FIFA into a financial crisis.

Blatter, who faces the prospect of legal action in the Swiss courts following a suit laid against him by 11 of the 24 members of his executive committee for possible criminal mismanagement of FIFA's finances, nevertheless held his power base with the associations.

Of FIFA's 204 members, 202 were present at the Congress and, under FIFA rules, 197 had the right to vote on Wednesday.

Before the vote, Blatter, who was first elected president in 1998 when he beat UEFA president Lennart Johannsson by 111 votes to 80, told the Congress that "my conscience is clear" as far as the allegations against him were concerned.

The election brought to a close a highly impassioned Congress in Seoul.

On Tuesday Blatter had been booed and jeered for the way he gagged opponents who wanted to speak out about the financial situation and, although the mood in the Congress hall was calmer on Wednesday, there were several heated addresses to the delegates.

Antonio Matarrese of Italy, an outgoing member of FIFA's executive committee said Blatter was guilty of damaging the good name of FIFA by dividing the administration into rival camps.

FIFA vice-president Chung Mong-joon had opened proceedings in the morning saying that Blatter had damaged FIFA's reputation and prestige, but he saw off those barbs with his victory.

His success is bad news for his general secretary Michel Zen-Ruffinen, the author of the explosive report into Blatter's management style which is now with the Zurich prosecutor.

Zen-Ruffinen will almost certainly be the first victim of the new Blatter regime once the World Cup is over as his untenable relationship with Blatter can only result in him leaving his post.

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