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UK Cricketers 'urged to boycott Zimbabwe'
Posted: Monday, December 30, 2002

By Paul Waugh, Independent/UK

The Government made a desperate attempt to distance itself from the England cricket team's decision to travel to Zimbabwe yesterday when it said it had "asked" players not to go.

Mike O'Brien, a Foreign Office Minister, said: "We cannot order the ECB [England and Wales Cricket Board] not to go to Zimbabwe, but we have asked them not to go. The final decision must rest with them. Our opinion is clear given the abuse of human rights and the dire circumstances of the people of Zimbabwe, it would be wrong to play a game of cricket there."

The Foreign Office also said that Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, had told the ECB just before Christmas that he did not want the team to compete in the World Cup in Harare.

Mr O'Brien's remarks, made as Downing Street finally came out against the tour, represent a significant hardening of the Government's line. On 17 December, Mr O'Brien said: "My personal view is that it would be better if they did not go."

In a last-ditch attempt to find a solution before the tournament starts on 13 February, David Graveney, chairman of the selectors, yesterday urged ministers to hold an emergency meeting with the players. MORE
 

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