- Associated Press - Thursday, May 26, 2011

ZURICH (AP) - FIFA President Sepp Blatter says he’s taking no joy seeing election opponent Mohamed bin Hammam suffer “public humiliation” in a bribery scandal.

Blatter wrote in an online column published Thursday that he is “horrified” by corruption allegations that shed “a very bad light on FIFA yet again” days before next week’s presidential vote.

The candidates set aside their rivalry when they met and hugged at FIFA headquarters before a scheduled finance committee meeting, according to panel chairman Julio Grondona.

“It gives me no pleasure to see (bin Hammam) suffer public disgrace before an investigation would even have started,” Blatter said in a ghostwritten column for Inside World Football website.

Bin Hammam, the Asian Football Confederation president, and FIFA vice president Jack Warner face an ethics hearing in Zurich on Sunday over allegations stemming from the Qatari’s May 10-11 campaign trip to Trinidad.

“I take no joy to see men who stood by my side for some two decades, suffer through public humiliation without having been convicted of any wrongdoing,” Blatter said.

The ethics court can in effect hand Blatter victory in the June 1 poll by suspending bin Hammam from all soccer duty. It could determine there was wrongdoing. Or it could provisionally bar him if it requests more time to study evidence compiled by a federal prosecutor from Chicago who works for Warner’s CONCACAF regional body.

Though expressing sympathy for his longtime Qatari ally, Blatter said he admires American official Chuck Blazer’s “civic courage” for reporting the alleged bribery to FIFA headquarters.

Blatter was indignant at suggestions he was part of a conspiracy to remove his election rival from the race.

“To now assume that … this entire matter was somehow masterminded by me is ludicrous and completely reprehensible,” he said. “No sane person can take pleasure in this development, and no decent person will enjoy the troubles of others, be that friend or foe.”

Blatter accepted that the latest scandal to befall FIFA _ after years of links to alleged high-level financial wrongdoing, ticket scalping and vote-buying _ was a “storm of its own creation.”

“What FIFA needs is ironclad laws that are implemented forcefully and allow world football’s governing body to conduct its affairs transparently, properly and professionally in every respect,” he said.

Blatter, who joined FIFA in 1975 and has been president for 13 years, seeks a fourth and final four-year term from FIFA’s 208 national members in Zurich next Wednesday. The 75-year-old Swiss promised changes if given a final term.

He pledged to “open the doors, reinforce dialogue, improve our corporate governance and handle our public affairs with the kind of priority it deserves and must deliver.”

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