London: Mike O'Brien, a junior minister in Britain's Foreign Office, said on Tuesday that England should not play in Zimbabwe during the forthcoming World Cup.
England is due to play co-hosts Zimbabwe in the African nation's capital of Harare on February 13. "We will not issue orders to the International Cricket Council (ICC) and England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB)," O'Brien told a debate in Westminster Hall, a chamber of the Houses of Parliament. "But my personal view is that it would be better if they did not go." Politicians from all British parties have called for Zimbabwe to be stripped of its host status in protest at the policies of the country's President Robert Mugabe. However, Britain's sports minister Richard Caborn has always maintained that the ICC, not politicians, should make the final decision on Zimbabwe. ICC sent a delegation to Zimbabwe last month, including representatives of all six nations due to play World Cup matches there, to inspect security arrangements.
The delegation's report was circulated to the ICC's 15-strong executive board on Friday and its decision on Zimbabwe is due to be made public later this week. Zimbabwe has come under international scrutiny over the forcible eviction of white farmers, who owned more than 30 per cent of the country's most fertile land before the policy to move them was launched in 2000 with Mugabe's blessing. The World Cup begins on February 8 with the bulk of the matches scheduled to be played in South Africa.