Platini: UEFA to keep ex-Soviet states apart

WARSAW - The former Soviet Union states of Russia, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan will be kept apart in Sunday's qualifying round draw for the 2012 European Championship.

FIFA president Michel Platini told a news conference on Saturday the decision was taken in a bid to keep politics out of sport.

Platini said the executive committee wanted to ensure there was no repeat of the situation that arose when Armenia and Azerbaijan were drawn in the same qualifying group for the Euro 2008 finals but refused to play against each other.

"The executive committee decided that Russia and Georgia should not be in the same group, or Armenia or Azerbaijan. So if that happens in the draw, we will draw again.

"During the qualifiers for Euro 2008 Armenia and Azerbaijan found themselves in the same group and these two matches were deleted as they decided not to play against each other.

"Now we have decided to avoid that possibility and not have the problems that would arise if they were in the same group."

Asked if UEFA were creating a dangerous precedent by allowing politics to interfere in a sporting decision, he replied: "We took this decision because we don't want sport to mix with politics.

"In this way we are avoiding any political problems regarding those countries. We don't want to interfere in their politics and I believe the executive committee took the right decision."

Politically opposed countries have often played each other in the past - and also refused to do so.

North and South Korea have met in World Cup qualifiers and both have reached this year's World Cup finals in South Africa.

There have also been many examples of countries refusing to play against political adversaries.

The former Soviet Union refused to play Chile in Santiago in a second leg playoff for a place in the 1974 World Cup finals in West Germany and were later banned by FIFA from the competition.

Asian and Middle East countries opposed to Israel frequently boycotted matches against Israel which led to Israel eventually leaving the Asian Confederation and joining UEFA.

The draw for the qualifying competition of Euro 2012 will take place on Sunday at 11am GMT.