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Iran pulls out of diplomatic event

MONACO -- North and South Korea and India and Pakistan are among 10 nations competing in the latest version of pingpong diplomacy, but Iran backed out of a chance to compete alongside American players.

Iran has been listed for months as a participant in the Nov. 21-22 table tennis event in Qatar. No reason was given by Iran for its sudden withdrawal, said Valerie Amant, spokeswoman for Monaco-based Peace and Sport, which is helping organize the tournament.

Players from the United States, China, Japan, Russia, France and Qatar are participating. The event will include mixed-nation teams.

Joel Bouzou, founder of Peace and Sport, said the $100,000 tournament aims to "encourage dialogue between countries to promote mutual understanding and peace."

Organizers have drawn parallels with the pingpong diplomacy of the historic visit by a U.S. team to China in 1971, which led to gradual warming of relations between the countries.

Iran and the United States often meet in international sports events, including the Olympics. Special sports exchanges between the nations began in 2007 with a trip to Tehran by U.S. wrestlers and have included competitions in basketball, table tennis and water polo.