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Indonesia pulls out of Fed Cup tie in Israel

Written by: Staff
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JAKARTA, July 6 (Reuters) Indonesia has pulled out of a Fed Cup tennis tie with Israel in Tel Aviv this month because of Israel's military offensive in the Gaza Strip, the foreign ministry said today.

Israel has launched the offensive with the goal of forcing Palestinian militants in Gaza to release a soldier they captured in a cross-border raid on June 25.

Women players from Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, had been due to take on Israel in a World Group II playoff on July 15-16.

Foreign ministry spokesman Desra Percaya said today they would not play the tie, citing Indonesia's ''solidarity with the Palestinian people because there is Israel aggression and detention of Palestinian leaders, and attacks on civil installations''.

Indonesia recognised the decision might result in its tennis association being fined but considered the humanitarian issue over the Israeli action more important, he said.

The sport's ruling body, the ITF, said it was saddened by Indonesia's decision and would decide on any sanctions at a later date. It said Israel had been named winners of the tie by walkover.

''The (Indonesian) team was ready and willing to play and understood, perhaps better than their government, that sport in its purest form is about building bridges,'' ITF president Francesco Ricci Bitti said in a statement.

At an Indonesian Tennis Association news conference, Angelique Widjaja, one of her country's top players, said the decision had been out of the athletes' hands.

''We as the players of course are sad,'' she said. ''But maybe the government decision is the best.'' Association chairwoman Martina Widjaja (no relation) said the move meant ''a wide range of penalties are open including suspension from the competition, demotion and a financial penalty''.

Indonesia is a staunch supporter of an independent Palestinian state and a critic of Israel, with which it does not have diplomatic relations.

The issue is important to many local Muslim and secular politicians in Indonesia, the world's third-largest democracy.

Israel's tennis association had said today preparations for the tie were going ahead.

REUTERS AY RK2038

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