Kiwi government may ban Zimbabwe~~s visit

Published: Thursday, June 23, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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Wellington:New Zealand may ban a planned tour by the Zimbabwe team scheduled for December because of "appalling abuses of human rights" under President Robert Mugabe's government, foreign minister Phil Goff said.

"The Zimbabwe team should not anticipate that it will be granted entry into New Zealand," Goff said in a statement on Thursday.

"The imposition of a ban on the team would send a strong message to the Mugabe regime that New Zealanders and their government abhor the actions it is taking against its people."

Mugabe's government has been pulling down thousands of homes and businesses, leaving hundreds of thousands homeless in winter, according to the United Nations. The destruction targeting mostly poor areas has been condemned worlwide and follows March elections described as a sham by foreign governments.

Goff said he had been advised on Thursday of the planned tour by Zimbabwe and he had not yet had a chance to discuss it with the Cabinet or get legal advice.

"However, given the current appalling abuses of human rights and relentless trend of the Zimbabwe government towards a dictatorship, the New Zealand government would not welcome a visit from a side representing Zimbabwe at this time."

New Zealand Cricket (NZC) officials were not available for comment. Chief executive Martin Snedden and chairman Sir John Anderson were on their way to London for the International Cricket Council's (ICC) annual meeting.

Earlier onThursday, Goff had said that the government had no legal way of stopping an earlier scheduled tour by the New Zealand team to Zimbabwe in August. NZC announced full strength Test and One-day squads for the tour on Wednesday.

"Only a dictatorial, autocratic regime can stop New Zealanders from leaving their own country," Goff said.

"That's exactly what we're protesting about in terms of what Mugabe is doing."

Nevertheless, the government would prefer the tour not take place because of the human rights abuses of the Mugabe government.

NZC had said on Wednesday that the players had unanimously agreed to embark on the five-week tour to Zimbabwe after an independent security report gave the all clear.

Snedden said the team would be liable for a fine of more than $2 million under ICC rules if it pulled out of the tour.

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