Aussie tour to Zim off

Aussie tour to Zim off

MELBOURNE – Australian Prime Minister John Howard has ordered the country’s national cricket team to cancel their planned tour of Zimbabwe later this year.

The Australian government had previously outlined its determination to scrap the tour in protest over Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s regime. Howard said yesterday he had instructed Foreign Minister Alexander Downer to contact Cricket Australia (CA) to tell them the planned one-day series in September would be cancelled.”The government through the foreign minister has written to the organisation of Cricket Australia instructing that the tour not go ahead,” Howard told ABC radio yesterday.”We don’t do this lightly, but we are convinced that for the tour to go ahead there would be an enormous propaganda boost to the Mugabe regime.”The Mugabe regime is behaving like the Gestapo towards its political opponents.The living standards in the country are probably the lowest of any in the world.”CA Chief Executive James Sutherland said while he accepted the government’s responsibility to make decisions about international relationships, his organisation would need time to assess the implications of a pullout.NEUTRAL VENUE “Given our commitment to help Zimbabwe cricket develop, we will now explore the possibility of playing the three ODIs we are due to play against Zimbabwe in September at a neutral venue outside Zimbabwe,” he said in a statement.Australian captain Ricky Ponting said he respected the decision, though he added he was aware of Australia’s responsibilities to play International Cricket Council (ICC) member and non-member countries.”I’m comfortable that the Australian government has taken the responsibility for making international affairs decisions on behalf of the country,” he said in a statement.The government said earlier in the week that it would indemnify CA against any financial losses incurred as a result of cancelling the tour, estimated to be around A$2,4 million ($2 million).ICC CRITICISM Howard said he felt the decision was what players wanted.”I don’t think it’s fair to place a foreign policy decision of this magnitude on the shoulders of sportsmen,” Howard said.”The International Cricket Council’s approach to this issue has not been helpful,” he said in a statement.”The government has previously called on the ICC to change its rules to allow teams to forfeit tours to countries where serious human rights abuses are occurring.Regrettably, the ICC has declined to do so.”Zimbabwe is still recognised by the ICC, though the sport’s ruling body has withdrawn the side’s test status.Countries that refuse to tour the African state can be sanctioned.ICC Chief Executive Malcolm Speed suggested, however, in a radio interview he was pleased with the Australian government’s stance, adding that he was unhappy when such decisions were left to cricket administrators and players.”It fits within ICC policy…It’s similar to the action that New Zealand took last year.The New Zealand government refused to allow the Zimbabwe team to tour New Zealand,” Speed told BBC Radio Five Live in London.”What we don’t like is governments expressing opinions against the Zimbabwe government but then leaving it up to the cricket administrators to make a decision.”Nampa-Reuters (Additional reporting by James Grubel in Canberra and Rex Gowar in London)Howard said yesterday he had instructed Foreign Minister Alexander Downer to contact Cricket Australia (CA) to tell them the planned one-day series in September would be cancelled.”The government through the foreign minister has written to the organisation of Cricket Australia instructing that the tour not go ahead,” Howard told ABC radio yesterday.”We don’t do this lightly, but we are convinced that for the tour to go ahead there would be an enormous propaganda boost to the Mugabe regime.”The Mugabe regime is behaving like the Gestapo towards its political opponents.The living standards in the country are probably the lowest of any in the world.”CA Chief Executive James Sutherland said while he accepted the government’s responsibility to make decisions about international relationships, his organisation would need time to assess the implications of a pullout.NEUTRAL VENUE “Given our commitment to help Zimbabwe cricket develop, we will now explore the possibility of playing the three ODIs we are due to play against Zimbabwe in September at a neutral venue outside Zimbabwe,” he said in a statement.Australian captain Ricky Ponting said he respected the decision, though he added he was aware of Australia’s responsibilities to play International Cricket Council (ICC) member and non-member countries.”I’m comfortable that the Australian government has taken the responsibility for making international affairs decisions on behalf of the country,” he said in a statement.The government said earlier in the week that it would indemnify CA against any financial losses incurred as a result of cancelling the tour, estimated to be around A$2,4 million ($2 million).ICC CRITICISM Howard said he felt the decision was what players wanted.”I don’t think it’s fair to place a foreign policy decision of this magnitude on the shoulders of sportsmen,” Howard said.”The International Cricket Council’s approach to this issue has not been helpful,” he said in a statement.”The government has previously called on the ICC to change its rules to allow teams to forfeit tours to countries where serious human rights abuses are occurring.Regrettably, the ICC has declined to do so.”Zimbabwe is still recognised by the ICC, though the sport’s ruling body has withdrawn the side’s test status.Countries that refuse to tour the African state can be sanctioned.ICC Chief Executive Malcolm Speed suggested, however, in a radio interview he was pleased with the Australian government’s stance, adding that he was unhappy when such decisions were left to cricket administrators and players.”It fits within ICC policy…It’s similar to the action that New Zealand took last year.The New Zealand government refused to allow the Zimbabwe team to tour New Zealand,” Speed told BBC Radio Five Live in London.”What we don’t like is governments expressing opinions against the Zimbabwe government but then leaving it up to the cricket administrators to make a decision.”Nampa-Reuters (Additional reporting by James Grubel in Canberra and Rex Gowar in London)

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