~~We~~ll provide highest possible security to Aussies~~

Published: Saturday, July 13, 2002, 23:53 [IST]
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Karachi: Pakistan's cricket chief said on Saturday the Australian team would be protected by the highest security possible if it went ahead with its October tour.

"We are committed to providing as much security as possible to the Australians," Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Lieutenant General Tauqir Zia said. Zia said the PCB was in discussions with the national government over what security measures to take, and his assurance would soon be made formally to the Australian Cricket Board (ACB). He was reacting to an ACB spokesman's comments of Friday that the Australians were seeking safety assurances for the players if they were to go ahead with the three- Test tour of Pakistan. Pakistan's military ruler General Pervez Musharraf on Thursday urged the Australians to tour Pakistan and said he would talk with Australian politicians to get the tour to go ahead. Leading Australian players Shane Warne, Mark Waugh and Glenn McGrath have said they do not want to tour Pakistan, but Test captain Steve Waugh said he would tour if the ACB decided it was safe. The tour has been in doubt because of widespread security fears after two suicide bomb blasts in the southern city of Karachi killed 26 people in May and June. The New Zealand team was forced to cut short its tour by one Test after the May blast occurred outside its Karachi hotel. But Zia tried to play down the danger to the New Zealand players during their shortened tour. "We provided New Zealand the best of security until that blast occurred but New Zealand team was never a target," he said. PCB director Brigadier Munawwar Rana also downplayed the May bombing as a reason for Australia not to tour Pakistan. "New Zealand appreciated our security arrangements and what happened in Karachi could have happened any where in the world," Rana said. A military spokesman last week said that Pakistan's fight against terrorism had begun to pay dividends after arrests of some key suspects and hoped things would settle down. The unrest in this strife-torn country has already caused Pakistan to lose hosting rights to a tri-nation One-day series involving Australia and New Zealand in August- September. It was originally scheduled to be staged in Karachi but is likely to be shifted to Nairobi, Kenya.

PCB shifts tri-series to Nairobi; invites ACB, NZC

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