Zurich - Sepp Blatter said on Thursday that
he offered Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza a role with FIFA to persuade
him to leave office amid a brewing political crisis, following a request from
the Swiss government.
The Swiss foreign ministry confirmed in an
email that it sought Blatter's help in diffusing tensions in Burundi.
Blatter, FIFA's disgraced ex-president,
made the comments at the Zurich launch of a new authorised biography called
Speaking to journalists at the launch,
Blatter said "Switzerland, which wanted to protect Burundi's interests,
asked me to speak to President Pierre Nkurunziza, who is also a huge football
fan, to persuade him not to run", for reelection.
The request was made in May of last year,
as Nkurunziza was pursuing a controversial third term, which he went on to win
in a vote that sparked a continuing crisis which has left hundreds dead.
"We suggested that he become an
ambassador for football within Africa and outside. President Nkurunziza said 'I
am very touched,'" but ultimately declined the offer.
In the book, Blatter was quoted as saying
that he was asked to intervene in Burundi by the State Secretary at
Switzerland's foreign ministry, Yves Rossier.
Swiss foreign ministry spokesman Stefan von
Below confirmed "there was a contact between State Secretary Yves Rossier
and Joseph Blatter.
"The intention was to contribute to a
peaceful solution in order to prevent the current crisis in Burundi. Switzerland's
commitment to peace and stability in Burundi has been longstanding," von
Below further said.
The Swiss foreign ministry "never
asked president Nkurunziza not to run for the office of president again,"
Reacting to an article in Swiss media about
Blatter's diplomatic efforts, Burundi's presidential spokesperson Willy Nyamittwe
said in a tweet: "they tried everything they could to trample the
fundamental principles of democracy in #Burundi. We defeated them."
Blatter claimed in the book that the idea
for him to be used as an envoy was initiated by the United States, but that
could not be immediately confirmed.
If true, the request for Blatter's help
would have come just before the US justice department unsealed a raft of
indictments targeting top FIFA officials and sports marketing executives over
corruption in world football going back decades.
The US indictments, announced on May 27,
kicked off the unprecedented crisis at FIFA that ultimately led to Blatter's
downfall and his replacement as FIFA's president in February by Gianni
During Burundi's year-long political crisis
more than 400 people have been killed while some 250 000 others have fled the
country, raising fears of a return to the 1993-2006 civil war that claimed an
estimated 300 000 lives.