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Korea and Iran seek to bury hatchet with exchange deal

(Reuters) - South Korea and Iran will sign a sports exchange agreement on Wednesday, barely two weeks after talks of "blood" and "revenge" soured relations between their respective soccer teams ahead of a crucial 2014 World Cup qualifier.

Both nations advanced to next year's finals in Brazil after Iran beat the hosts 1-0 in Ulsan last month in a highly charged encounter stoked by mud-slinging between Iran coach Carlos Queiroz and his South Korean counterpart Choi Kang-hee.

The Korea Football Association (KFA) website crashed due to heavy traffic after angry fans visited the portal to slam the team's insipid performance, while Choi was criticized heavily in the local media prior to his resignation the next day.

Queiroz's animated celebrations after the match also drew anger from the KFA, who said he had made a rude gesture after the final whistle which FIFA would investigate.

Despite the bad blood, Yoo Jin-ryong, South Korea's minister of culture, sports and tourism, and Mohammad Abbasi, Iran's minister of youth affairs and sports, will ink a deal on the sports exchange programme.

In 2007, the countries had signed a similar agreement and the deal expired in 2010, South Korea's sports ministry said.

The new agreement would cover bilateral exchange of athletes, coaches and other sports experts and the two countries would also cooperate on matters related to international sports organisations, the Yonhap news agency reported.

"We hope this signing will further expand sports exchanges and cooperation between South Korea and Iran," Yoo was quoted as saying in the report.

"We also hope that the two countries will actively engage in exchange programs in culture and tourism, among other areas."

(Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; Editing by John O'Brien)

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