Zimbabwe opposition slams England~~s tour

Published: Tuesday, November 30, 2004, 23:53 [IST]
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Brussels:Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai slammed the England cricket team's decision to go ahead with a trip to his country, saying it plays into the hands of President Robert Mugabe.

"We have from the very beginning condemned anything that will give legitimacy to Mugabe," he told reporters in Brussels, where he appealed for EU governments to close loopholes in their sanctions on Harare.

Unfortunately "the English cricket tour (will) to all intents and purposes... give credibility to a regime which has been condemned internationally," he added.

The controversial England trip to Zimbabwe, a former British colony, has gone ahead despite a last-minute hitch over accreditation for journalists accompanying the players.

Tsvangirai, head of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), said that the cricketers should have realized that they would be used for propaganda purposes by Zimbabwe.

"We were appealing or the moral suasion on the part of cricketers to realize that Mugabe means the patron of cricket in Zimbabwe," he said.

"How would they feel, when the Mugabe regime is committing acts of murder, brutality against the people of Zimbabwe, and you are able to shake hands with such a man?" he asked, rhetorically. The England cricketers have pointed refused to shake hands with Mugabe during the trip.

The Zimbabwean opposition leader is on a tour of European countries to drum up support against Mugabe's government and to highlight calls for more to be done to ensure that parliamentary elections due in March are free and fair.

The EU has long criticized Mugabe's regime, and has slapped sanctions on Harare notably including a travel ban on Mugabe and key government and other figures.

But Tsvangirai lamented that the sanctions have not been applied forcefully enough -- noting for example the "indiscretion" of France allowing Mugabe himself to visit Paris last year.

"What we are appealing for is for the EU to enforce the sanctions, (to ensure) that there are no loopholes," added the Zimbabwean politician, who was due to travel on to France from Brussels.

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