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Cricket World Cup to Play in Zimbabwe Despite Security Concerns - 2002-12-19

The ruling body of International Cricket has decided to go ahead with six World Cup matches in Zimbabwe early next year, in spite of concerns about security and the human rights record of the Zimbabwe government. Cricket officials announced the decision on Thursday in London.

The International Cricket Council says its decision is based on a report from a delegation it sent to Zimbabwe to investigate security issues. Chief Executive Malcolm Speed told reporters the council did not consider political issues.

"It makes decisions based on what is in the best interest of the game of cricket," he said. "It does not make political decisions on political issues. Decisions on political issues are decisions that ought to be made by politicians. And I think from the outset ICC has been very clear about this. Our decisions are based on cricket issues. Politicians decisions are made on political issues."

Mr. Speed says the International Cricket Council determined that it would be safe to play the planned matches in Zimbabwe in February and March, and so the matches will be held as scheduled.

An official statement says security was enhanced following the recent terrorist attacks in Kenya.

The matches in Harare and Buluwayo involve teams from, England, Holland, India, Namibia, Pakistan and Zimbabwe, as well as defending world champion Australia.

The Australian team canceled a visit to Zimbabwe earlier this year after the Australian government issued a travelers warning for Zimbabwe. But after Thursday's announcement the Australian Cricket Board announced it is satisfied with the arrangements for the World Cup matches in Zimbabwe.

England's Cricket Board also confirmed Thursday that its team will travel to Zimbabwe for the matches. Britain is Zimbabwe's former colonial ruler, and President Robert Mugabe has accused Britain of trying to undermine his government.

Zimbabwe's Cricket Board welcomed the decision to hold the World Cup matches as planned. But the country's main opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change condemned the decision, accusing the International Cricket Council of being indifferent to the suffering of the Zimbabwean people.

There has also been a controversy over media coverage of the matches in Zimbabwe.

A spokesman for the International Cricket Council says Zimbabwe has agreed to grant visas to journalists who are accredited for the World Cup, but not to other reporters who might want to cover the cricket and other stories. Zimbabwe officials have said they want the reporters to cover only cricket while they are in the country.

Zimbabwe has been the subject of much media reporting about its economic problems, widespread hunger, alleged government corruption and human rights violations. The country recently introduced a new press law restricting the activities of foreign and domestic journalists.

The Cricket World Cup finals will be in South Africa in late March.