January 20, 2016

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) Five weeks before election day, some of the 209 FIFA member federations are publicly pledging their votes in the presidential race.

Prince Ali of Jordan said Wednesday that the Iraqi soccer federation will vote for him on Feb. 26 in Zurich. The German and Swiss federations gave their expected support to UEFA general secretary Gianni Infantino, who is from Switzerland.

''Gianni Infantino is the candidate of the Europeans and the best candidate,'' Reinhard Rauball, interim leader of the German soccer federation, said after a meeting of its presidium.

Prince Ali got formal public support from UEFA - but not the Asian Football Confederation - when he tallied 73 votes in losing to Sepp Blatter in May.

Iraq is expected to be joined by other Asian voters for Prince Ali next month despite, AFC president Sheikh Salman of Bahrain claiming unanimous support for his campaign from executive committee members. Jerome Champagne of France and South African businessman Tokyo Sexwale are also in the running.

Prince Ali's campaign team said in a statement he also has ''picked up private commitments of support from several other nations'' in Africa and the Caribbean.

He met with the Iraqi sports minister and soccer officials in Amman on Monday after campaigning alongside rivals in Ghana, Rwanda and Antigua.

''Iraq's vote will go to Prince Ali because Prince Ali has always supported the development of football in Iraq, Jordan and our region,'' federation president Abdul Khaliq Masood said.

UEFA members, including 53 FIFA voters, will meet on Friday in Nyon, Switzerland, to discuss election strategy after a meeting of its executive committee, which includes Swiss federation president Peter Gillieron.

''His (Infantino's) long experience as general secretary at UEFA and his management skills will be beneficial for FIFA in its stage of reorganization,'' Gillieron said in an interview published on the Swiss federation website.

Infantino can count on most of the UEFA votes, though a key World Cup promise in his election manifesto has not found support with Vitaly Mutko, the influential Russian sports minister.

Infantino proposed region-wide co-hosting of future World Cups, which FIFA wants to increase to 40 teams from 32 for the 2026 tournament.

''I do not think this idea is good,'' Mutko, a FIFA executive committee member who is leading the 2018 World Cup preparations, said in an interview published Wednesday by the TASS agency. ''The World Cup is a grand and unique event. But I believe that the identity would be lost as well as the holiday of a particular country and culture.''

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