Syrian Olympic head brushes off British warning

In this handout picture released by the official

In this handout picture released by the official Syrian news agency SANA released on April 18, 2012, shows President Syria's Bashar al-Assad speaking during a meeting of the higher council of the Local Administration in Damascus. Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images

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DAMASCUS, Syria -- The head of Syria's Olympic committee brushed off a warning from Britain that he could be banned from attending the London Games, saying Thursday that he would be "honored" to be blacklisted for his ties to the Syria's president.

The Syrian government's 13-month crackdown on an uprising has killed thousands of people and led to broad sanctions and a European Union travel ban on President Bashar Assad and other top officials.

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Syria's Olympic head, Gen. Mowaffak Joumaa, is not on the list and said Thursday that he plans to attend the games from July 27-Aug. 12 unless he is notified of an official ban.

"I will be there and I will represent Syria," Joumaa told The Associated Press.

"Once I am blacklisted, it would be an honor for me to be one of the citizens who were banned from entering Britain because of their country's dignity and freedom," he added.

The British government warned Joumaa on Wednesday that he could be banned from attending the London Games due to his close links with Assad.

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"I think that might be a situation that is developing as we speak," British sports minister Hugh Robertson said. "We will have to see when his application comes through ... we would have to talk to the IOC, but yes of course we can (block Joumaa's entry)." Joumaa said the Olympic team is composed of more than 35 Syrians, including athletes and administrators.

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