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      Head of Syria's Olympic Committee Refused Visa to London

      Head of the Syrian Olympic Committee refused a visa to travel to London for this summer’s games.
      By Elad Benari, Canada
      First Publish: 6/23/2012, 12:51 AM

      Civil war in Syria
      Civil war in Syria
      Reuters

      The head of the Syrian Olympic Committee, General Mowaffak Joumaa, has been refused a visa to travel to London for this summer’s games, the BBC reported on Friday.

      The reason for the refusal is links to President Bashar al-Assad's regime, whose violent crackdown on democracy activists has been condemned worldwide.

      According to the BBC report, the decision was made in recent days by Home Office, Foreign Office and Department of Culture officials. The International Olympic Committee is expected to ratify the decision.

      The board of senior government officials had been assessing Joumaa's application for a while and had reached a decision in the last few days, the report said.

      The London Games organizers Locog must now notify the International Olympic Committee (IOC) of the decision, which has the final say.

      The BBC’s correspondent said that while the IOC can be “very, very protective of these sorts of issues where politics and sports collide”, it was “extremely unlikely” to go against the UK government's ruling.

      The IOC confirmed it has been told informally about the travel ban and a spokesman told the BBC, “At this stage we have not yet received any official approach on this issue and it would be premature to comment on any individual cases.”

      The UN says at least 10,000 people have died in Syria since the uprising there began in March 2011.

      After the massacre of more than 100 unarmed men, women and children in the town of Houla last month, the British government suggested members of the Assad regime could be banned from the games, the BBC reported.

      Foreign Secretary William Hague said at the time he was “absolutely sickened” by the deaths, which “shine a light to the whole world on the oppression and brutality of the regime.”

      (Arutz Sheva’s North American Desk is keeping you updated until the start of Shabbat in New York. The time posted automatically on all Arutz Sheva articles, however, is Israeli time.)