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Officials from the United States and Canada have backed FIFA’s decision to postpone the World Youth Championship in the United Arab Emirates because of the threat of war against Iraq.

FIFA confirmed yesterday that it will reschedule the 24-team tournament – due to start on March 25 – to an unspecified later date.

“We have been monitoring this situation very closely since we qualified in November, and fully support the FIFA decision to postpone the tournament,” said U.S. Soccer president Robert Contiguglia.

“The security of our players, coaches and administrators is always paramount in our planning for any international or domestic event, and if there are any concerns to those arrangements in staging the event at this time, then you have to applaud this decision.”

The U.S. was scheduled to depart for Abu Dhabi on March 19.

“We understand that safety for the team in this setting is more important than a soccer tournament, and this is situation that warrants caution,” said Thomas Rongen, coach of the U.S. men’s under-20 national team.

“We will still have this group ready and prepared for when the time comes to play.

“This group of players has workedextremely hard and is looking forward to showing their ability on the world stage.”

The US sentiments were echoed by their Canadian counterparts.

“Obviously we are disappointed because we have been preparing for the tournament for some time,” said Canadian coach Dale Mitchell.

“With the events going on, it’s understandable that it has been deemed unsafe for us to go down there and we respect the decision.”

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