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Blatter supporters gag Zen-Ruffinen

Zen-Ruffinen (right) has been warned not to talk to the media about his boss, Blatter (left)


Supporters of embattled FIFA president, Sepp Blatter, have gagged the world soccer body's general secretary, Michel Zen-Ruffinen.

As the battle between Blatter and Zen-Ruffinen escalates, supporters of the FIFA president also moved to strip Zen-Ruffinen of his financial powers.

FIFA on Sunday confirmed a report in Switzerland's weekly "SonntagsZeitung" that an eight-member "emergency committee" had banned Zen-Ruffinen from talking to the media.

In addition, the committee removed his authority to make financial decisions, and threatened disciplinary action should the gag be broken.

The move to rein in Zen-Ruffinen comes after weeks of increasingly bitter fighting between the general secretary and his Swiss countryman, and former mentor.

Zen-Ruffinen earlier this month prepared a 21-page report accusing Blatter of corrupting the organisation, undermining its financial foundations and calling for a full inquiry.

Blatter faces legal action

On Friday, eleven members of FIFA's executive committee launched a formal criminal complaint against Blatter, alleging financial mismanagement.

The group said they had no choice but to act in the wake of Zen-Ruffinen's report.

Blatter has vowed to address the charges, which he regards as a smear campaign, ahead of FIFA's presidential vote on May 29. Blatter is seeking re-election against African soccer chief, Issa Hayatou.

He told the mass-market "Blick" newspaper on Friday that he was not prepared to sack Zen-Ruffinen because it would only fuel the claims of his opponents.

"I will not do my opponents the favour," he said. "They're just waiting for me to sack Zen-Ruffinen so that they can then say I have got rid of the last person at FIFA who knows that truth."

According to the "SonntagsZeitung", the emergency committee meeting's decision to gag Zen-Ruffinen was opposed by Hayatou, UEFA head Lennart Johansson and South Korean Chung Mong-joon.

Zurich's chief prosecutor, Hansruedi Mueller, said last week he would decide on Monday on how to handle the legal complaint against Blatter.

swissinfo with agencies

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