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Brazil says Blatter apologizes over Valcke remarks

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SAO PAULO (AP) - FIFA President Sepp Blatter apologized for remarks by one of his top executives about Brazil's preparations for the 2014 World Cup.

Blatter's comments came in a letter to the government Monday, a day after FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke sent his own apology.

The government informed FIFA it would no longer deal with Valcke after he said: "You have to push yourself, kick your arse" to speed preparations. It remained unclear whether the government would accept the apologies and change its position regarding Valcke.

The government says Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo would first answer the letters from FIFA before making his decision public.

The Brazilian government said in a statement that Blatter and Rebelo spoke on the phone Tuesday, and the FIFA president "guaranteed to the minister" that the "Valcke episode" will not happen again. It also said Brazil wants to maintain "an environment of cooperation and harmony" with FIFA.

Blatter, who is in Bangladesh to meet with national federation officials, asked Rebelo to set up the meeting with President Dilma Rousseff. Blatter said he would like that to happen as soon as possible, preferably next week.

Blatter was not scheduled to travel to Brazil before Valcke's comments, although the Brazilian government expected him to visit after a key bill regulating the World Cup is approved.

Without directly mentioning Valcke's remarks in his letter released by the sports ministry, in Portuguese, Blatter expressed his "deepest regret."

"I'm extremely worried about the deterioration of the relationship between FIFA and the Brazilian government," he said. "My only comment regarding this subject is to apologize to everyone who may have had their honor and their pride hurt, especially the Brazilian government and President Dilma Rousseff."

Blatter said Brazil and FIFA have a "goal in common" and together must organize an "extraordinary World Cup in the country of football, in the country of champions." But he warned that "time is passing by" since the country was picked to host soccer's showcase event in 2007.

The Brazilian government said in a statement that Blatter and Rebelo spoke on the phone Tuesday, and the FIFA president "guaranteed to the minister" that the "Valcke episode" will not happen again. It also said Brazil wants to maintain "an environment of cooperation and harmony" with FIFA.

Blatter's apology came as congressmen in Brasilia approved a World Cup bill giving FIFA the necessary legal and financial guarantees to organize the event. The bill must now go to the lower house and the senate before reaching Rousseff. Delays in approving the bill was one of the reasons Valcke complained.

Among the issues approved was the sale of alcohol inside stadiums, a FIFA demand but against the law in Brazil. Budweiser is a major World Cup sponsor.

Other matters include discounted tickets to students and the elderly, possible trademark infringements, commercial rights and liability for security problems.

When Brazil was selected as host it accepted FIFA's demands to change its laws to facilitate organization of the tournament. But the proposed bill has been contentious, with critics saying Brazilians shouldn't bow to FIFA's demands.

FIFA wanted the bill to take effect by the end of March, so the country could quickly get on with its preparations for the World Cup and next year's Confederations Cup.

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Follow Tales Azzoni at http://twitter.com/tazzoni

Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
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