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Britain Bans Tours by Zimbabwe Cricketers


International outrage continues to mount against Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his government's violent election campaign. Tendai Maphosa reports for VOA from London the British government now says it will ban tours by the Zimbabwean cricket team.

The debate about whether Zimbabwe's cricket team should be allowed to tour internationally has been going on for some time.

Britain's government wanted a decision on whether to allow the team to compete in the country to be made by the England and Wales Cricket board. But recent events in Zimbabwe changed the picture.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown addressed the issue in his regular Wednesday remarks to parliament.

"The Secretary for Culture is working with the English Cricket Board. We want to ensure that Zimbabwe does not tour England next year and we will call for other countries to join us in banning Zimbabwe from the 20-20 international tournament," Brown said.

The World 20-20 Cricket tournament, which England will host next summer, was officially launched Tuesday in London with Zimbabwe still among the 12 competing teams. But soon after the prime minister's statement, the England and Wales Cricket Board announced that it is suspending relations with Zimbabwe cricket.

The International Cricket Council meets in Dubai next week to discuss the Zimbabwe issue and observers expect the country to be suspended.

The decision to ban Zimbabwe may be made easier since, earlier this week, South Africa's cricket administrators, Cricket Zimbabwe's strongest allies announced they were cutting all ties with Zimbabwe. This followed pressure by South African cricket players who threatened they would not play against Zimbabwe because of the ongoing political turmoil there.

In a related matter the Times daily newspaper reports the mining conglomerate Anglo American is set to make a $400 million investment in Zimbabwe. Though the Anglo-American deal was not brought up in parliament, Prime Minister Brown called on companies that were helping Mr. Mugabe's regime to "reconsider their position". The Times says the Foreign office is looking into whether Anglo American breached sanctions against Zimbabwe.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has made an impassioned plea for action in an article in the Guardian daily newspaper. Mr. Tsvangirai, who welcomed Monday's Security Council statement condemning the Zimbabwean government's violent campaign, appealed for a peacekeeping force to protect the people of Zimbabwe. He emphasized he is not calling for armed conflict but says the people of Zimbabwe need more than just words of indignation.

Zimbabwe's long running political crisis took a turn for the worse following the March 29 general election. The opposition, Movement for Democratic Change won a majority in parliament, but Mr. Tsvangirai failed to secure an outright victory against incumbent President Mugabe in the presidential vote. A runoff is scheduled for Friday, but Mr. Tsvangirai has pulled out, citing violent repression of the opposition and its supporters.

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