Brazil, FIFA seek better relations over World Cup
The president of Brazil met with a top FIFA executive Monday in an effort to improve relations over the organization of the 2014 World Cup.
Brazil President Dilma Rousseff and FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke met privately in Belgium. Rouseff is in Belgium for Tuesday's European Union summit. Government spokeswoman Lais Garcia said it was the first meeting between the two and both sides agree they need to communicate better.
The World Cup organizing country and soccer's governing body often spar for months over potential conflicts, ranging from sponsorship demands to taxes and other financial issues.
''We never compromise on the protection of our commercial partners,'' Valcke said.
At the same time, Brazil's legislators want to make sure that a World Cup bill currently going through congress does not compromise the rights of Brazilians.
''The FIFA World Cup is a partnership and as such we do respect Brazilian law, while the host country respects the commitment made,'' Valcke said.
New laws could expose FIFA to income losses and liabilities while limiting the scope of sponsors to promote their brand at one of the most sought events in sports.
One of the harshest critics of FIFA's plans in Brazil, Demostenes Torres of the opposition Democrats Party, has warned that the bill would make the government ''subservient to FIFA.''
Rousseff became president in January, four years after Brazil won the right to the tournament. The transition has meant some changes in the relationship with FIFA.
After Rousseff and Valcke broke the ice, there will be follow up meetings in Brazil this week. The bill is expected to be voted on later this year.
Valcke and Rousseff's officials also made it clear that at no point was there any talk of the World Cup being taken away from the five-time winners. Three weeks ago, complaints of World Cup delays worsened when a judge stopped building work to renovate and expand Brazil's largest airport for the World Cup.
A federal judge issued an injunction to halt construction at the Sao Paulo international airport because the expansion project was allegedly initiated without a bidding process.
FIFA and government officials have been saying that improving Brazil's outdated airport infrastructure is one of the main challenges the country faces in preparing for the World Cup and the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
The World Cup will be played in 12 cities across Brazil and there has been criticism of slow work on new or renovated stadiums.
Associated Press writer Marco Sibaja contributed to this report from Brasilia.