New Zealand to continue pressing for ban on Zimbabwe

Published: Wednesday, June 29, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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Wellington:New Zealand will continue to press for the ban of Zimbabwe from international cricket despite indications international cricket's governing body would reject such a move, New Zealand Foreign Minister Phil Goff said.

Reports quoted International Cricket Council (ICC) chairman Eshan Mani saying there were no plans to bar Zimbabwe from international competition despite international condemnation of human rights abuses by the government of President Robert Mugabe.

New Zealand is due to tour Zimbabwe in August but the government wants the tour cancelled. It says it has no legal power to stop the team going but is trying to win the support of other countries, especially Australia and Britain, to pressure the ICC to suspend Zimbabwe from international competition.

Reports quoted Mani as saying Tuesday the matter had not yet been raised at the ICC's annual meeting being held in London and the ICC still believed the tour should go ahead. He said he didn't think sporting bans had any effect on the governments targeted.

Goff said the ICC was continuing to show inflexibility and was ignoring current events in Zimbabwe.

A government operation to tear down shacks and other unauthorised homes and businesses has left 200,000 homeless during winter by UN estimates, although the opposition says the figure is closer to 1.5 million.

Goff has sent Australia and Britain the draft of a letter to the ICC asking for Zimbabwe to be excluded from international play while the human rights crisis continues.

"I think it's important to put it on the record just how we feel about not just the situation in Zimbabwe but (also) about the ICC which can apparently turn a total blind eye to the huge abuses of human rights going on there and say 'we'll just play on regardless'," he said on New Zealand radio.

"That's not acceptable to the government, that's not acceptable to most New Zealanders."

Goff also criticised South Africa's cricket organisation for deciding to oppose any ban on its neighbour.

"South Africa's decision surprises me not in the least. Their government has failed even to condemn Zimbabwe for what is happening," he said.

Although it says it cannot stop the cricket team going to Zimbabwe, the New Zealand government has indicated it is likely to refuse visas for the Zimbabwe team for a return tour planned for December.

New Zealand's cricketing body said it cannot cancel the tour because it would face a minimum fine of two million US dollars for unjustified cancellation of its tour under ICC rules.

Australia and Britain have said they wanted to consult their cricket organisations before deciding whether to support New Zealand's stand.

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