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Pakistan National Games Postponed Over Security Concerns

The scene of a bomb blast outside a court building in Peshawar in December 2009
KARACHI (Reuters) -- Pakistan's annual National Games, scheduled to be held in Peshawar this month, have been postponed because of security concerns, the country's National Olympic Committee has said.

The games are the latest sporting event to be affected by security worries in a country that has been hit by a series of militant attacks, including the ambush of the Sri Lanka cricket team's bus last year.

Today the International Tennis Federation moved a Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Group-II semi-final tie scheduled in Lahore in July to New Zealand after a request from the visiting team.

National Olympic Committee President Arif Hasan told a news conference in Lahore after a meeting of the executive council that the security situation in the country and Peshawar had prompted the postponement of the games.

"Teams are already not willing to come to Pakistan because of the security issues and we don't want a situation where a domestic event is also affected by some incident," Hasan said.

The National Games are the biggest domestic sporting event in Pakistan and more than 3,000 athletes take part in different disciplines.

Hasan said the relevant authorities in Peshawar were not willing to give security clearance for the games at this stage.

"We took the prevailing situation in the country into consideration and felt the best thing at this stage was to postpone the games," he said.

"There was also pressure from parents and associations to postpone the games and obviously nothing is more important to us than the safety of our athletes and officials."

The National Games were already been postponed once before last year due to security issues.

Hasan said new dates in December were subject to security clearance.

There has been a surge of militant strikes in Peshawar since the army went on the offensive against Pakistani Taliban militants in their South Waziristan stronghold on the Afghan border in October.

Last week, suicide bombers targeting the Pakistani military killed at least 45 people in Lahore.