Australia abandons bid to halt Zim World Cup ties

Published: Thursday, January 16, 2003, 17:22 [IST]
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Sydney: The Australian government on Thursday said it had all but given up its effort to prevent next month's cricket World Cup matches from begin played in Zimbabwe. Defence Minister Robert Hill, speaking for vacationing Foreign Minister Alexander Downer, said Australia was unlikely to act unilaterally in boycotting Zimbabwe venues after English cricket authorities decided on Tuesday to go ahead with their scheduled match in Harare.

Both the Australian and British governments sought to convince national cricket authorities to boycott Zimbabwe venues during the World Cup in protest at the actions of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe. The Australian Cricket Board has said it will play its February 24 match against Zimbabwe in Bulawayo unless evidence emerges that the security of its players cannot be ensured.

The England and Wales Cricket Board announced on Tuesday that it had rejected pleas from the British government to boycott Zimbabwe and would go ahead with its World Cup opener on February 13 in Harare. But the Board said players would not be allowed to take part in a pre-game ceremony in which they could have to shake hands with Mugabe. Hill said the Australian government still believed it would be better if the Australian Cricket Board would decide it was inappropriate to play games in Zimbabwe, but will not force the issue.

"As Prime Minister (John Howard) said, the way we wish to approach this matter is collectively and the British government shares our position," Hill said on public radio. "We would like to think that the cricket boards would listen to governments that are obviously looking at the bigger picture and shift the games, but we are unlikely to act unilaterally," he said.

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