LAUSANNE: The United Nations has blocked a scheme supported by the International Olympic Committee to ease restrictions on the provision of sports equipment to North Korea.

The IOC plan followed the inclusion of North Korean competitors at the Winter Olympics earlier in this year in neighbouring South Korea.

However the Sanctions Committee of the United Nations Security Council has confirmed the ban after what has been reported as pressure from the United States which refuses to permit any exception to rules decided in the framework of North Korea’s plan to denuclearize.

The IOC had urged the UN at the end of July to allow sports material to be sent to North Korea.

A statement said: “The IOC has taken note with regret of the decision of the sanctions committee of the UN Security Council not to grant an exemption on sports equipment for North Korean athletes. This decision makes it more difficult for the IOC to bring together athletes from around the world to promote mutual understanding and friendship regardless of the political situation or any difference .”

IOC president Thomas Bach considered the UN decision as “all the more disappointing because the requested exemption on sports equipment only concerned a limited number of athletes. ”

The IOC is continuing to support the presence of a 300-strong North Korean delegation at the 2018 Asian Games later this month in Indonesia where the two Koreas are expected to march together at the opening ceremony. They will form joint teams in women’s basketball, rowing and dragon sailing.