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Britain Refuses to Recognize Lacrosse Team's Iroquois Passports

The British government has refused to allow a Native American lacrosse team to enter Britain using passports issued by their tribal federation.

British officials said Wednesday that the Iroquois team would only be allowed into Britain with documents the government considers valid, including U.S. or Canadian passports.

In Washington Thursday, U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said he was not surprised by the decision and that both the United States and Britain believe that the Iroquois must eventually have internationally recognized travel documents.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton agreed to waive U.S. passport regulations so the team could use their Iroquois Confederacy passports to travel to Britain for the World Lacrosse Championship.

The Iroquois team was forced to forfeit the opening tournament match it was to play with England on Thursday.

U.S. authorities originally told the lacrosse players they would have to obtain U.S. passports, but they declined, saying passports issued by Washington would be an affront to their identity.

The State Department says Clinton made the one-time exception because she wanted to see one of the world's leading lacrosse teams take part in the tournament. Clinton had served as a U.S. senator that represented some Iroquois lands.

Lacrosse, a team sport played with a rubber ball and a long-handled webbed stick, originated centuries ago in native American communities, particularly among the Iroquois.

The Iroquois are one of many indigenous groups in the United States whose heritage pre-dates European settlements in North America. Most Iroquois reside in an area of northern New York state where their confederation has sovereign status.

Passports issued by Iroquois authorities lack high-security features contained in travel documents from the U.S. State Department.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.