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|ECB keen to have Government meeting|
Monday, January 26 2004 11:36 Hrs (IST)
On Friday, Straw sent a letter of advice to the ECB which Lamb said was "tantamount to an instruction not to go" ahead with the November trip.
However the ECB would ideally like Straw to tell them they could not go at all as this would give them a legitimate excuse to call off the tour under International Cricket Council (ICC) rules.
"We do need to seek further clarification of the Government's position, we need to have a face-to-face meeting with them before we make a final decision in a month," Lamb told BBC Radio on Sunday.
But, earlier on Sunday speaking on BBC Television, Lamb admitted the government had gone about as far as it could. "The Government have come off the fence and made it quite clear that they are against us going to Zimbabwe.
"It may have been couched in the coded political language of Whitehall, but for them to say that we ought to consider carefully whether a high profile English tour at this time is consistent with the approach the British government are taking, is probably as close as you will get to an instruction not to tour."
He added, "We'll have to argue that in a Western, representative democracy that is tantamount to an instruction not to go," Lamb said.
"There are two reasons why you can be excused touring. One is if there are legitimate safety and security concerns. The other is if you get an explicit instruction not to go from your government."
Lamb added that he would be speaking to England captain Michael Vaughan later on Sunday about the issue. He accepted an England withdrawal could end with the ECB being forced to pay compensation to the Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU).
And he conceded it could have knock-on effects for the ICC Champions Trophy One-day event which is being staged in England in October.
One of English cricket's major sponsors, communications firm Vodafone, has warned it may withdraw its three million pounds (5.4 million dollars) per year backing if the Zimbabwe tour goes ahead.
Vodafone chairman Lord MacLaurin, himself a former ECB chairman, called on Sunday for the Government to take the lead. "I do think it is a Government responsibility when you look at the overall picture.
"The Government took a decision to take us into war in Iraq," MacLaurin said. "That was because of weapons of mass destruction that we didn't find. The regime in Iraq is not too dissimilar to that of Zimbabwe.
"I made the Vodafone position very clear to (ECB chairman) David Morgan and Tim Lamb some months ago that we would rather have the players not go."
England promised to tour Zimbabwe in exchange for the Zimbabweans visiting England in 2003. That tour had been in doubt after England pulled out of a World Cup match in Harare in February.
The ECB had set themselves a deadline of Thursday to decide whether they would go ahead with the tour or bow to pressure to pull out because of international concerns over the regime of president Robert Mugabe.
But in the light of a report published by senior ECB official Des Wilson earlier this week concluding that England would be justified in withdrawing from the tour on moral grounds, the ECB announced it would not be making a final decision until February.
England strongly advised to boycott Zim tour