SHEFFIELD, England -- The organizers of the 2022 World Cup have a message for Germany's soccer leadership ahead of a meeting on Friday: Qatar does not support terrorism.
While discussing Qatar's right to host the FIFA showpiece, German soccer federation president Reinhard Grindel said earlier this year that tournaments "cannot be played in countries that actively support terror."
When Germany plays England at Wembley Stadium on Friday, Grindel is due to come face-to-face with Hassan Al Thawadi, general secretary of Qatar's World Cup organizing committee.
"Qatar does not support terrorism," Al Thawadi told The Associated Press on Thursday when asked about Grindel's comments. "Qatar is at the forefront of the fight against terrorism on the ground. It's one of the main partners in the coalition fighting ISIS (the Islamic State group).
"But more importantly, the state of Qatar has committed to stop the supply of terror at the roots through initiatives such as education, empowerment, creating economic opportunities for people to ensure that they don't follow down the path on the way to terrorism - and that isn't what the state of Qatar stands for."
Al Thawadi maintained he has a "great relationship with Grindel," who discussed Qatar's suitability to host the World Cup after the boycott of Qatar began in June by neighboring who accuse it of funding extremists.
Grindel has also been concerned about conditions for the migrant workforce that the tiny natural gas-rich emirate is relying on to rapidly expand infrastructure, spending tens of billions of dollars to host the first World Cup in the Middle East.
Qatar has been buoyed by the United Nations labor agency ending a potential investigation after looking into whether the nation was observing the Forced Labor Convention. The ILO still plans to monitor Qatar's progress in ending the "kafala" sponsorship system which binds workers to their employer and ensuring the end of exploitative practices.
"Progress is being made," Al Thawadi said in an interview during a visit to England. "The journey has not ended, there is still more to be done and we are committed towards that. We are welcoming anybody that has any constructive criticism and will assist us in that journey."
FIFA was told by its own human rights advisory board to seek more details about deaths classified as "non-work related" and to apply more pressure on the Qatari government to accelerate changes.
In a report published Thursday, the board recommended that FIFA's administration "actively explores ways to use its leverage to engage with the host government about the impact of the kafala system on migrant workers involved in World Cup construction."
More AP World Cup coverage at www.apnews.com/tag/WorldCup
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