GENEVA (AP) - The head of FIFA's ethics watchdog said Thursday he's ready to intervene before an election between bitter Asian rivals for an influential job in world football.
Petrus Damaseb, a judge from Namibia, said he wants to keep all options open to act before a scheduled May 8 vote for a seat representing Asia on FIFA's 24-man executive body, which chooses World Cup hosts.
"I do not want to exclude an intervention of any sort," Damaseb told The Associated Press.
"It is an option we will look at on the advice of the legal department of FIFA."
Damaseb ordered an investigation on Wednesday after his ethics panel received complaints about both candidates - Qatar's Mohamed bin Hammam and Bahrain's Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Khalifa.
Hammam, the Asian Football Confederation president and a FIFA executive member for 13 years, says his opponent's backers are trying to buy votes.
Shaikh Salman's supporters say Hammam threatened a senior official from the Korea Football Association.
Damaseb said the open dispute between such high-ranking officials was unprecedented.
"We have not had anything of this kind since I have served on the ethics committee," he said by telephone from Namibia.
"The allegations are obviously very serious."
Damaseb has asked officials at FIFA headquarters in Zurich to begin taking statements, "especially from anyone who has evidence to implicate anyone in the allegations."
"Some parties have already been requested to provide us with the necessary information so that at least we have a first-hand account," he said.
"I will if necessary give further directions and say, 'Look, I think this is not enough, get a statement from this other one."'
Damaseb said he had time to process an investigation before the election is held next month at the AFC Congress in Kuala Lumpur.
"Things can happen very quickly," he said, with the ethics panel able to convene by conference call with just three of its 14 members present.
"If the evidence that we get is strong enough, then I might even call a meeting on two, three days' notice."
The Asian election dispute prompted FIFA president Sepp Blatter to call for both sides to observe fair play.
"These principles and values must be applied not only on the field of play, but also in the administration and governance of football, particularly in the area of sports politics," Blatter said in a statement Wednesday.
"This includes elections."
Bin Hammam has said he believes Korean football officials are driving his opponent's election campaign, and alleges they made offers of cash grants to Asian football associations to vote for Shaikh Salman.
The Korean FA said Bin Hamman used a phrase in a television interview that could be translated as threatening to cut off the head of its president Cho Chung-yeon.
Hammam compared the expression to the English version "heads will roll."
Both official complaints are being examined by FIFA lawyers.
Damaseb has served on the ethics panel for two years and became acting chairman in February when Sebastian Coe, the two-time Olympic 1,500-meter champion, stepped aside to avoid a conflict of interest when he joined the bid team trying to bring the World Cup to England.
The FIFA executive committee will choose hosts for the 2018 and 2022 World Cup finals in December 2010. - AP
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