BAGHDAD (AP) – Iraq's top football official has resigned ahead of elections scheduled for later this week to determine who will run the beleaguered Iraqi Football Association, according to a letter posted by the federation Monday.
The decision by Hussein Saeed to step down marks the latest turn in Iraq's efforts to elect new leadership for the sport's national governing body after more than a year of debate that mimicked the Shiite-Sunni sectarian disputes happening throughout the country.
In the letter posted on the association's website Monday, Saeed said he was stepping down to prevent disputes and the collapse of Iraqi football.
Just last week, Saeed, who lives outside the country, told The Associated Press he would run in the election. He could not be reached for comment Monday.
Saeed is a Sunni who used to play for Baghdad's al-Talaba club. Critics say he has ties to the former Saddam-era regime and is tainted by corruption allegations, charges he denies.
In the letter he lashed out at critics.
''I have continued my work as the head of the football federation during the past period despite the hostilities and the baseless accusations that I faced with the aim of keeping me away from my country and my duties,'' he said.
One of his main rivals for the post was expected to be Falah Hassan, a Shiite from Baghdad's slum of Sadr City who is believed to have the Shiite-majority government's support.
Last year FIFA, football's world governing body, gave Iraq a year to pick new leadership after the dueling factions failed to agree on a candidate and risked a FIFA ban.
The Iraqi football elections are scheduled to take place Thursday.