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Running a lax ship
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BRUGES, Belgium, June 10 (Reuters) - A South African soccer official said on Saturday he was confident of clinching a deal to get Brazil to withdraw from the race to host the 2006 World Cup and support Johannesburg's bid instead.

With the decision on who will host the tournament less than a month away, South African officials insisted they had received strong signals from the Brazilians that they would be interested in a deal, despite official denials in the past few days.

"We've had discussions with them and it looks very positive," Dennis Mumble, general manager of the South African Football Association, told Reuters in Bruges, one of the venues for Euro 2000.

"We believe we can secure a deal with them, that's for sure," added Mumble who is due to meet Brazilian officials in South Africa next week.

In return for Brazilian support for its 2006 campaign, South Africa would back a Brazilian bid for the 2010 finals.

"Should the Brazilians wish to step down, we are most definitely prepared to back them (for 2010), in exchange for their backing in 2006," Mumble told a news conference in Bruges together with South African Sports Minister Ngconde Balfour.

When reports of a deal between the two countries first surfaced earlier this week, they were accompanied by a frantic round of spinning and counter-spinning by various bid officials.

The South African camp suggested a deal would give it the votes of all three South American members on FIFA's 24-strong executive committee, which meets on July 5 and 6 to award the rights to stage the tournament.

England's bid chief insisted a withdrawal by Brazil would be good news for his campaign. He said delegates from Argentina and Paraguay had indicated they would back England.

Germany and Morocco are the other candidates in the five-way battle to host the world's premier soccer event.

Mumble said South Africa believed it was "pretty safe" in assuming it would have the backing in the first round of voting of at least six to eight members of the executive committee, which would be enough to move into a second round.

He said several committee members had indicated they would switch support to South Africa if it reached the second round. "That's going to be the critical round," he predicted.

Mumble and Balfour are due in Morocco on Sunday for talks with officials running the north African country's bid, who have insisted they intend to stay in the race.

Balfour did not say he would try to get Morocco to quit. But his diplomatic comments seemed to lean in that direction.

"We do have an invitation from the Moroccan minister of youth and sport to talk to them. And all we are saying is that we are open-minded. We'll be going to Morocco tomorrow and listen to what Morocco has to say to us," Balfour said.

"Of course we'll go to Morocco as well having something in mind (along the lines) of 'How we do make sure that the African continent hosts the 2006 World Cup?'" he added.

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that's the official version, but really we have withdrwn to help South Africa, and the whole African continent will back us in 2010 + all the third world countries. I think that's fair enough:) we can wait a bit:(
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