Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates have withdrawn from the 2015 World Men's Handball Championship in Qatar following political tensions between the neighbouring Gulf countries.
According to a statement from the International Handball Federation (IHF) the Bahrain Handball Association informed the governing body of its decision to withdraw from the 24-team tournament, scheduled to be held in Qatar from January 15 to February 1, 2015.
The statement added: "The issue will be dealt with by the Council of the International Handball Federation in its next meeting scheduled for November 21, 2014, when a corresponding decision regarding this matter will be made and announced."
No reason was given by the IHF for Bahrain's withdrawal.
Political tensions between Qatar and three of its fellow Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, have become increasingly strained in recent years due to Qatar's perceived support of Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East.
The three nations withdrew their Ambassadors from Qatar in March amid claims that Doha had not implemented an agreement among Gulf Arab countries not to interfere in each others' internal affairs.
Bahrain had been drawn in Group D of the tournament, alongside Denmark, Poland, Russia, Argentina and Germany.
They had qualified for the tournament after progressing to the final of the 2014 Asian Handball Championships, where they lost to Qatar 27-26.
According to reports on the German website handball-world, the United Arab Emirates have also indicated their intention to withdraw from the competition.
A quote credited to Majed Sultan, chief executive of the United Arab Emirates Handball Association reads: "We have informed the IHF of our decision not to participate in the World Championship in Qatar."
The IHF have since confirmed the withdrawal of the United Arab Emirates from the Championships.
Again, no reason was given for the withdrawal, with the IHF stating that "just like in the case of Bahrain, the case will be handled by the Council of the International Handball Federation in its next meeting."
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