- Associated Press - Saturday, May 28, 2011

LONDON (AP) - Mohamed bin Hammam withdrew from FIFA’s presidential election hours before facing an ethics hearing over alleged corruption during the campaign.

The Qatari challenger to 13-year incumbent Sepp Blatter has been accused of arranging bribes for up to 25 presidential voters on a campaign visit to the Caribbean earlier this month.

Bin Hammam, Blatter and FIFA Vice President Jack Warner are due to face a FIFA ethics hearing on Sunday, with the election scheduled for Wednesday.

“Recent events have left me hurt and disappointed _ on a professional and personal level,” Bin Hammam wrote on his personal website. “It saddens me that standing up for the causes that I believed in has come at a great price _ the degradation of FIFA’s reputation. This is not what I had in mind for FIFA and this is unacceptable.

“I cannot allow the name that I loved to be dragged more and more in the mud because of competition between two individuals. The game itself and the people who love it around the world must come first. It is for this reason that I announce my withdrawal from the presidential election.”

The allegations against Asian Football Confederation president bin Hammam and Warner were leveled by American FIFA executive committee member Chuck Blazer.

“I pray that my withdrawal will not be tied to the investigation held by the FIFA ethics committee as I will appear before the ethics committee to clear my name from the baseless allegations that have been made against me,” bin Hammam said. “I promise those who stood by me that I will walk with my head held high and will continue to fight for the good of the game.”

Warner, the CONCACAF president, also has become embroiled in the scandal.

“I have a special thank you to my friend and colleague Jack Warner for his unlimited support,” bin Hammam said. “I am sorry to see that he has to suffer because of me, but I am promising him that I will be with him all the way through thick and thin.”

Bin Hammam decided to try to become the first Asian president in FIFA’s 106-year history after playing an important role in Qatar successfully winning the vote in December to host the 2022 World Cup.

Blatter succeeded Brazil’s Joao Havelange, defeating then-UEFA president Lennart Johansson at the 1998 FIFA Congress. After facing a challenge from Issa Hayatou in 2002, Blatter was re-elected unopposed for a third successive term in 2007.

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