US sidesteps Putin accusation of meddling in Fifa election

Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) meets with Fifa president Sepp Blatter in Sochi, on April 20, 2015. US diplomats avoided a clash of words Thursday with Moscow on the corruption scandal shaking Fifa after Mr Putin accused Washington of trying
Russian President Vladimir Putin (right) meets with Fifa president Sepp Blatter in Sochi, on April 20, 2015. US diplomats avoided a clash of words Thursday with Moscow on the corruption scandal shaking Fifa after Mr Putin accused Washington of trying to block the re-election of Blatter. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (AFP) - US diplomats avoided a clash of words Thursday with Moscow on the corruption scandal shaking Fifa after Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Washington of trying to block the re-election of football boss Sepp Blatter.

Putin condemned the arrest of seven top Fifa officials as part of a US probe, saying Washington was trying to oust Blatter after he resisted pressure to stop Russia from hosting the 2018 World Cup.

"The suggestion that we are trying to have an influence over the internal processes in Fifa, that's not the point," said Jeffrey Rathke, a State Department spokesman.

"It's quite clear the purpose of the investigation and of the arrest."

Putin charged that the arrests Wednesday in Zurich two days ahead of a Fifa presidential vote were "clearly an attempt to block the reelection of Blatter."

"There's a clear message from the United States that... corrupt conduct is not acceptable," Rathke said.

"And that's the focus of the indictment and our cooperation in the arrests yesterday." He insisted that the US investigation should not have an impact on Washington's already shaky ties with Moscow.

"A suggestion that somehow that it's not appropriate for US authorities to have an interest in corruption of that sort is a bit hard to understand," Rathke added.