Aug. 06, 2008, 11:45 p.m. (ET)

BEIJING (AP) Former hurdles champion Nawal El Moutawakel of Morocco was elected to the IOC executive board Thursday, becoming the highest-ranking woman in the Olympic movement and first female from a Muslim nation on the rule-making body.

The 46-year-old El Moutawakel was unopposed for a seat on the powerful 15-member International Olympic Committee board, and was elected by a vote of 85-12 at the close of a three-day IOC session ahead of the Beijing Games.

"I feel honored," she told the assembly. "I assure you I will give my full commitment to work in this wonderful family and to protect the Olympic ideals. Thank you very much for the trust you are putting in me."

El Moutawakel became the first woman from a predominantly Muslim nation to win an Olympic medal when she took gold in the 400-meter hurdles at the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

She was the first woman from a Muslim country on the IOC when she was inducted in 1998. She had a high-profile role as chair of the commission which evaluated the bids for the 2012 Summer Games, which were awarded to London in 2005.

Her election was assured Wednesday when two other candidates said they would stand aside so she could get on the board.

El Moutawakel fills an unofficial vacancy for a female member on the board. IOC vice president Gunilla Lindberg of Sweden is leaving the board after her four-year term expired.

The IOC set a goal in 1996 of having women make up 20 percent of the membership. As of today, only 16 of the 110 members are women - six short of the target.

Lindberg's VP spot was filled by China's Yu Zaiqing, who was elevated from being a regular member of the board to become one of four vice presidents.

Yu's regular board spot went to El Moutawakel.

In the day's only contested vote, Richard Carrion of Puerto Rico - who leads the powerful IOC finance commission and negotiates key television rights deals - was re-elected to another four-year term on the board. He defeated British member Craig Reedie 56-39.

Four other spots on the board were filled in straightforward fashion.

Denis Oswald and Mario Vazquez Rana were reconfirmed as representatives of the summer sports federations and national Olympic committees, respectively. Rene Fasel, head of the international ice hockey federation, replaced Italy's Ottavio Cinquanta as the winter sports delegate. And former sprinter Frankie Fredericks of Namibia was elected as Sergei Bubka's replacement as the athlete representative.

Bubka, a former pole vault champion from Ukraine, was then elected as a full member of the IOC, along with international archery federation president Ugur Erdener of Turkey.

Also, the IOC picked Durban, South Africa, over Hong Kong to hold its general assembly in 2011, when the host city for the 2018 Winter Games will be selected. It will be the second IOC session ever held in Africa, and first since Cairo, Egypt, in 1938.

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