Brazil, FIFA seek better relations over World Cup
BRUSSELS (AP) -Brazil President Dilma Rousseff met FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke on Monday to seek improved relations over the organization of the 2014 World Cup.
The two were able to meet face to face for a private meeting as Rousseff is in Belgium for Tuesday's summit with the European Union. It was the first meeting between the two and "both sides said they needed to communicate better,'' said government spokeswoman Lais Garcia.
The World Cup organizing country and FIFA often go through months of sparring to resolve potential conflicts of interest, ranging from sponsorship demands to taxes and other financial issues.
"We never compromise on the protection of our commercial partners,'' Valcke said.
At the same time, Brazil's legislators want to make sure that a World Cup bill currently going through congress does not compromise the rights of all Brazilians.
"The FIFA World Cup is a partnership and as such we do respect Brazilian law, while the host country respects the commitment made'' when it signed up to host the monthlong event, Valcke said.
New laws could open up FIFA to losses in income and more liabilities while limiting the scope of sponsors to promote their brand at one of sport's most sought-after events.
However, one of the harshest critics of FIFA's plans in Brazil, Demostenes Torres of the opposition Democrats Party, has warned that the bill would make the government "subservient to FIFA.''
Rousseff came in as president in January, four years after Brazil won the right to stage the world's biggest single-sports event. The transition has meant some adaptations in the relationship with FIFA.
After Rousseff and Valcke broke the ice, there will be follow up meetings in Brazil later this week to put the new cooperation into practice. The bill is expected to be voted on later this year.
Valcke and Rousseff's officials also made it clear that at no point was there any talk of the World Cup being taken away from the five-time winners.
Three weeks ago, complaints of World Cup delays got worse when a judge stopped building work to renovate and expand Brazil's largest airport for the World Cup.
A federal judge issued an injunction to halt construction at the Sao Paulo international airport because the expansion project was allegedly initiated without a bidding process.
FIFA and government officials have been saying that improving Brazil's outdated airport infrastructure is one of the main challenges to prepare the country to host the World Cup and the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
The World Cup will be played in 12 host cities across Brazil and there has been criticism too that progress on new or renovated stadiums has been too slow.
Associated Press writer Marco Sibaja contributed to this report from Brasilia.
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