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|September 24, 2001||
South Asian Federation Games cancelled in Afghan crisisRaja Asghar
Pakistan on Sunday cancelled next month's South Asian Games due to be held in the capital Islamabad because of the Afghan crisis.
"It is with sorrow, and despite unwillingness, that I have to announce that we are postponing the games...for an indefinite period," Sports and Culture minister S.K. Tressler told a news conference.
He said a seven-day international car rally from the Pakistani city of Lahore to the Chinese border, which was organised by the state-run Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation and due to have started on Sunday, had also been postponed to a date yet to be set.
Neighbouring India has already postponed the first Afro-Asian Games, originally set for New Delhi in November, because of security concerns after the terror attacks in the United States.
The October 6-15 South Asian Federation (SAF) Games are contested every two years among members of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), made up of India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and the Maldives.
The last SAF games were held in the Nepali capital Kathmandu.
SAF organising committee's Pakistani chairman, Major-General Syed Arif Hasan, said the committee would meet soon and was expected to reschedule the games for February or early March next year.
The United States has threatened to attack Pakistan's neighbour Afghanistan because the ruling Taliban movement is harbouring Saudi-born fugitive Osama bin Laden, wanted in connection with the attacks on New York and Washington on September 11.
"Our preparations were complete but owing to some reasons we are postponing these games for an indefinite period," he said.
He said foreign technical delegates and consultants for the SAF Games were not ready to come to Pakistan after some Western embassies advised their nationals against travelling to the region because of the Afghan situation.
Without these technical delegates and consultants, the event would have lost its international status, he said.
Indian officials said they were disappointed that the games had been postponed but understood the decision.
"It is sad this had to happen. I am sure the Pakistan government has taken the right decision," Randhir Singh, secretary general of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) and Indian Olympic Association (IOA), told Reuters.
IOA president Suresh Kalmadi said: "It is disappointing. We were really looking forward to participating in the games."
India had been planning to send a contingent of more than 300 members headed by federal sports minister Uma Bharti.
India's Afro-Asian Games in New Delhi have been postponed until next March, Indian Olympic officials said on Friday.
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