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S. Korea, FIFA discussing moving World Cup qualifier in Lebanon over security concerns

All Headlines 18:14 May 31, 2013

By Yoo Jee-ho and Oh Seok-min

SEOUL, May 31 (Yonhap) -- South Korea and international football officials are discussing moving the country's upcoming World Cup qualifier in Lebanon to a third location because of security concerns in the Middle East country, a football official here said Friday.

South Korea is scheduled to play Lebanon in Beirut next Tuesday local time, in the ongoing final round of the Asian qualification for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil. The South Korean team is currently training in Dubai and is set to fly to Lebanon on the weekend.

An official with the Korea Football Association (KFA) said Chung Mong-gyu, the KFA chief, is in talks with FIFA officials over "ensuring security" during the South Korean team's stay in Lebanon. Chung is attending the FIFA Congress in Mauritius.

"They're also talking about possibly holding the game in a third country," the official said. "But the game is too imminent and it's unlikely to be relocated."

The deteriorating security situation in Lebanon has been tied to the civil war in neighboring Syria. Bombs launched across the border have killed several people in Lebanese border villages. The involvement of Hezbollah, a Lebanese militant group, in the Syrian war has led to concerns that the conflict might escalate.

Against this backdrop, a foreign ministry official said the ministry asked the KFA not to send supporters to Lebanon and to keep the size of the KFA delegation to a minimum.

On Thursday, the KFA said about 120 members of the "Red Devils," the country's aficionado cheering group, would join KFA officials on a chartered flight to Lebanon. The foreign ministry, after discussions with the KFA, had agreed to allow the Red Devils to travel and to provide security for the fans.

However, the South Korean embassy in Lebanon has reported to the foreign ministry in Seoul that the security situation has further deteriorated, prompting the ministry to ask the KFA to keep the Red Devils at home.

According to an official at the embassy, the Syrian Islamist Al-Nusra Front has threatened to launch an attack on Shiites near the Camille Chamoun Sports City Stadium in Beirut, unless the Hezbollah pulls out of the Syrian conflict.

Earlier Friday, a local media report said the foreign ministry had asked the KFA to try to change the match's venue. A ministry official, however, told Yonhap News Agency that the ministry doesn't have the right to be involved in discussions over the venue.

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