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Chile denies exclusion from 2014 Dakar Rally

Chile denies exclusion from 2014 Dakar RallySantiago (Chile), Mar 1 - Chile's deputy sports minister Gabriel Ruiz-Tagle said he was confident his country will form part of the 2014 Dakar Rally circuit, dismissing rumours a possible route change could shut the country out.

"Chile is not going to lose the 2014 Dakar Rally, it's as clear and simple as that," Ruiz-Tagle told the Chilean press Thursday.

"We have been in permanent contact with the ASO (the rally's organiser) and we continue to negotiate the different options for next year. Chile is going to maintain its key role in Dakar, and what's more, there is nothing to lead us into thinking that we are going to be left out of the next race," he said.

Earlier Thursday, Argentinean media reported that Bolivia's possible inclusion in the rally route might push Chile out of the race, reports Xinhua.

Ruiz-Tagle said that after the 2013 Dakar Rally, in January, rally director Etienne Lavigne "congratulated (Chilean) President (Sebastian) Pinera on the organisation in Chile."

In addition, he said, "it's the racers who are most interested in keeping the rally in Chile because it offers the best conditions."

The Dakar Rally originally took place in Africa, but political turmoil led organisers to move the off-road endurance race to South America in 2009, initially to Argentina and Chile. Peru was added in 2012.

Bolivia has been campaigning to join the route, hoping to boost tourism revenue, and the ASO is considering its inclusion in the next edition. (IANS)