ZURICH (AP) -- Thierry Henry cannot be punished for his handball before the goal that helped send France to the World Cup instead of Ireland, FIFA said on Monday.

FIFA's disciplinary panel decided it had no legal right to consider the case under the governing body's own rules. It says a handball offense is not classed as "a serious infringement" necessary to prosecute Henry under FIFA's Disciplinary Code.

"There is no other legal text that would allow the committee to impose sanctions for any incidents missed by match officials," FIFA said in a statement.

FIFA's executive committee, led by president Sepp Blatter, referred the case to the disciplinary panel last month.

Henry touched the ball with his left hand and arm before passing for William Gallas to score the decisive goal in a playoff in Paris last November. France drew the match 1-1 after extra time to beat Ireland 2-1 on aggregate.

Following a worldwide outcry after the match, the Football Association of Ireland asked FIFA and the French federation for the match to be replayed.

FIFA said the result must stand because decisions made on the field of play could not be reviewed.

"During matches, decisions are taken by the referee and these decisions are final," FIFA said last November.

However, FIFA's ruling executive committee met in special session on Dec. 2 at Cape Town, South Africa, and ordered a case to be opened against Henry.

Had the disciplinary panel accepted the case at its meeting Monday at FIFA headquarters in Zurich, the veteran striker could have faced being banned from matches at the World Cup in June.

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