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Syrian athletes 'will be at Games'

Athletes from war-torn Syria should not be punished by being excluded from the London 2012 games, David Cameron has said.

As International Olympic Committee (IOC) inspectors began their last visit before the Games, the Prime Minister also warned that any Syrian Olympic officials who have been targeted by sanctions against the regime would not be welcome.

More than 7,500 people have been killed in the year-long conflict between Syrian forces and rebels, according to United Nations estimates, sparking concern about whether officials close to the regime should be allowed at the London 2012 Games.

Mr Cameron said Britain is leading the global efforts to seize asset bases and push for sanctions against the regime and many close to President Bashar Assad have been banned from travelling within the EU, including his British-born wife Asma Assad.

However the Prime Minister told a 10 Downing Street press conference: "I don't think we should punish the athletes for the sins of the region."

He added: "Syrian athletes will be taking part in the Games, and that is right, but let's be absolutely clear: Britain has led efforts within the European Union and elsewhere to institute asset bans, travel freezes and punishing sanctions against this despicable regime and anyone covered by one of those travel bans will not be welcomed in London."

Syria's national committee, headed by General Mowaffak Joumaa who is believed to be a friend of Assad's, would automatically be invited to attend the opening ceremony. Around eight Syrian athletes could be heading for London but IOC president Jacques Rogge has previously warned that any implicated in war crimes will be banned from competition.

At a press conference with Mr Cameron, Mr Rogge dismissed criticism that London 2012 is being suspiciously secretive over ticket sales.

Calls have been made for a breakdown over tickets in terms of price and by events so a statistical analysis could be made on whether London 2012 was keeping its promises to make seats affordable.

Describing London 2012 as a "transparent company", Mr Rogge said: "This is something that will obviously be fully disclosed soon as the overlay has been finalised and the temporary venues have been constructed."

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