The acting head of Asian football has warned the continent's 46 football associations not to "interfere" in its probe into alleged wrongdoing by its scandal-tainted chief Mohamed bin Hammam.
The call, made in a statement issued late Monday by Asian Football Confederation interim president Zhang Jilong, comes as the AFC is probing fresh allegations of financial and other misconduct by bin Hammam.
"In this context, we would like to remind each member association once again of their obligation to comply with AFC Regulations as well as of their duty of loyalty towards AFC.," said the statement by Zhang.
"From this obligation results a specific duty to fully cooperate in the context of this investigation and to refrain from any actions which might interfere."
An AFC spokesman told AFP the call for cooperation was aimed at "making sure the process is as smooth as possible" and did not indicate the confederation was concerned it may encounter resistance from its member associations.
The AFC last month officially suspended bin Hammam for 30 days and launched a probe into unspecified suspicions of misconduct. FIFA subsequently hit the 63-year-old Qatari with a 90-day ban from football.
The probe is a new blow to bin Hammam, who has fought to clear his name of separate charges that he tried to buy FIFA delegate votes in campaigning to unseat long-standing president Sepp Blatter in a leadership election last year.
The scandal earned him a FIFA life ban from football and he was provisionally replaced after nine years as president of Asia's football governing body.
The FIFA ban was overturned last month by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland.
The court said the vote-buying case against bin Hammam was "not proven" due to "insufficient evidence", but its ruling stopped short of exonerating the Qatari.
Bin Hammam declared the ruling a victory.
The AFC said last month that an external audit of its books under him had turned up possible infringements of AFC statutes on ethics, corruption, conflicts of interest, bribery and accepting gifts and other benefits.
Monday's statement said the AFC had engaged Freeh Group International Solutions -- the consulting and investigative firm established by former US FBI director Louis Freeh -- to probe the allegations.
"We would like to point out that it is crucial that the Freeh Group receive unconditional and unreserved support and cooperation by all AFC Officials, bodies and member associations," Zhang said in the statement.
The AFC spokesman said it was not known how long the investigation would take.