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Published on NewsOK Modified: June 16, 2014 at 9:24 am •  Published: June 16, 2014
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SAO PAULO (AP) — In a story June 11 about the FIFA Congress, The Associated Press reported erroneously that performer Mohammed Assaf wore a Muslim headscarf. Assaf's black and white headscarf is a symbol of Palestinian nationalism.

A corrected version of the story is below:

'Arab Idol' to FIFA Congress: Viva Palestine

Palestinian singer kicks off FIFA Congress with impromptu call of 'Viva Palestine'

By ARON HELLER

Associated Press

SAO PAULO (AP) — The feel-good Palestinian winner of last year's 'Arab Idol' competition kicked off the FIFA Congress on Tuesday with an impromptu call to his homeland, signing off his performance with an emphatic "Viva Palestine."

The gesture in Sao Paulo came as Israelis and Palestinians continued their stalemate over the free movement of Palestinian footballers and against a backdrop of FIFA President Sepp Blatter urging the parties to "separate politics and sports."

Mohammed Assaf, a young wedding singer from the Gaza Strip whose songs often touch upon the Palestinian struggle for independence, sang before world football leaders in Arabic and English. He wore a black-and-white checkered scarf, for the Palestinians a symbol of nationalism.

Upon finishing his act, he abruptly asked for the microphone to thank Blatter and to single out Jibril Rajoub, the head of the Palestine Football Association, who has been sparring with Israel over the movement issue.

Late last month, in a visit to the region, Blatter said he hoped an agreement between the football associations would be "signed and sealed" before the World Cup began. All sides had a meeting at FIFA's Sao Paulo hotel on Monday but did not appear to make any significant progress.

The opening game is in Sao Paulo on Thursday, with host Brazil facing Croatia.

Palestinians complain that some of their players have faced restrictions and Rajoub has asked FIFA to suspend Israel if these are not lifted.

Israel says the restrictions have nothing to do with sport, but rather security, and accuses Rajoub of inciting against it.

Israeli Sports Minister Limor Livnat wrote to Blatter on Tuesday to defend her country's actions. She said Israel would allow Palestinian athletes to "exit and enter for the purpose of sports, excluding occasions in which there are attempts to make use of sports in order to injure or threaten the security of our citizens."

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