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FIFA's Blatter Comes Out Fighting Despite Scandal and Divisions

Sepp Blatter implied Saturday that the United States' major corruption probe was timed to try to scupper his re-election bid.

ZURICH — FIFA President Sepp Blatter came out fighting on Saturday as he began his fifth term in charge of soccer's governing body, implying that the United States timed the announcement of a major corruption probe to try to scupper his re-election bid.

The 79-year-old Swiss comfortably won Friday's vote at a FIFA congress in Zurich, having secured the support of blocks of votes from Asia and Africa, which outweighed dissenters including Europe's powerful soccer body UEFA.

He now faces the daunting task of restoring public faith in an organization tainted by allegations of graft and deeply divided over his leadership.

In an interview with Swiss television late on Friday, he criticized U.S. authorities for how they had handled their investigation.

"No one is going to take it off me that it was a simple coincidence (that) this American attack (happened) two days before the elections of FIFA," Blatter told the RTS channel.

"Why didn't they (the police) do this in March when we had the same meeting? At that time, we had less journalists."

In a dawn swoop on a Zurich hotel on Wednesday, Swiss police arrested seven leading soccer officials, including FIFA vice-president Jeffrey Webb.

The arrests were connected to a bribery scandal being investigated by U.S., Swiss and other law enforcement agencies that plunged FIFA into the worst crisis in its 111-year history.

Blatter also criticized UEFA, whose president Michel Platini had called for his resignation, saying it was not setting a good example to other soccer federations.

He told reporters on Saturday that UEFA had opposed a proposal to set up an independent committee to carry out integrity checks on executive committee members before they could take office.

"This was rejected by UEFA so it couldn't go through," he said. "Even now, the big UEFA doesn't have an independent ethics committee, (but) they should be an example for the other confederations... It's not acceptable."