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New Zealand likely to go ahead with Zimbabwe tour

Published: Thursday, July 14, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
 
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Wellington:New Zealand's cricket tour to Zimbabwe next month appears set to go ahead after the sport's international governing body said the New Zealand government would have to make the tour illegal to stop it.

The New Zealand government opposes the tour to Zimbabwe because of human rights abuses by President Robert Mugabe's government but has ruled out declaring the tour illegal.

A letter on Wednesday from International Cricket Council (ICC) chairman Ehsan Mani suggested the tour could be cancelled if there was a clear directive from the government to New Zealand Cricket.

New Zealand foreign minister Phil Goff sought clarification on whether a motion from parliament condemning the tour would be enough to allow it to be cancelled without penalty, but Mani rejected this on Thursday.

Mani said if a government did not legally prevent its team from playing another country, the tour would be expected to go ahead.

Under ICC rules, New Zealand Cricket (NZC) would face a fine of at least two million US dollars if it did not tour, as well as being liable for compensation to Zimbabwe for lost revenue.

Goff said the government was not surprised by the ICC's stand.

"We would like to see the tour to Zimbabwe stopped, we have asked them to stop it, but we are not prepared to pass legislation that would set the precedent of government stopping New Zealanders having the freedom to travel," he said.

Opposition to the tour has grown in New Zealand as Mugabe's government presses ahead with a campaign to demolish shacks and other illegal homes and businesses, leaving hundreds of thousands homeless.

Zimbabwe's first black Test cricketer Henry Olonga arrived in New Zealand on Tuesday to support the campaign to cancel the tour, saying the situation in his former country could be likened to apartheid in South Africa.

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