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Man City not giving up Nashat Akram battle

The UK Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, is being urged to review the decision not to grant Iraqi footballer Nashat Akram a work permit, reports the Manchester Evening News.

City boss Sven-Goran Eriksson wants to bring Akram to the English Premier League, but cannot because of a technicality in immigration rules for footballers.

Akram, 24, starred in Iraq's Asian Cup winning side, but to obtain a work permit, a player's national team must ranked in the top 70 by Fifa - and Iraq have not been ranked higher than 71.

However, that situation, say Akram's supporters, mainly reflects the current violence in Iraq which makes it impossible for the country to host international matches.

Manchester City have already lost an appeal against the Home Office ruling, but they remain hopeful after the Iraqi government took up Akram's case.

An Iraqi government spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, told the Associated Press that a letter had been sent to the British Ambassador in Iraq.

"We are trying to help Akram with his problem," he said.

"I have sent a request to the Home Office to reconsider the decision. The Iraqi government is exerting efforts to solve the issue."

The national team have not played a home game in nearly 20 years because of security fears and UN sanctions under Saddam Hussein. Akram's website said: "The main reason behind the [UK Home Office's] rejection is known to be the average ranking of Iraq in the last two years.

"Iraq's average ranking in the last two years was 71 which wasn't convincing to the work permit authority in the United Kingdom."

Now, though, the Home Secretary is being lobbied to review Akram's case in order to help "heal divisions."

Keith Vaz, Labour MP for Leicester East, said: "I shall be calling on the Home Secretary to review this decision.

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