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Home > Cricket > World Cup 2003 > Reuters > Report

Speed plays straight bat on Zimbabwe

Stella Mapenzauswa | January 23, 2003 21:55 IST

ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed said on Thursday Zimbabwe had provided "useful information" on security preparations for next month's World Cup matches, but declined to say if he would recommend that the games go ahead.

After two days of talks in Harare, Speed said he would make a full report to the ICC executive board which meets on Friday in a teleconference to discuss various World Cup issues.

"We have gathered information which is very useful," Speed told reporters at an airport news conference.

"There are a number of concerns about safety and security in this country that we are well aware of...but we have taken them on board and that will form part of the report to the board tomorrow," Speed said.

England and Australia have both resisted calls from their governments to boycott matches in Zimbabwe, where President Robert Mugabe faces criticism over policies which opponents say have led to economic crisis and political unrest.

Speed declined to say what he would recommend to the ICC board and remained non-committal on whether Zimbabwe's six World Cup games would go ahead as planned.

"I'm not making any comment about that," Speed said. "It was very productive. We had a lot of meetings and a lot of frank and honest answers from a lot of people with whom we met."

World Cup chief organiser Ali Bacher, who accompanied Speed on his visit, felt encouraged by assurances from Zimbabwean police officials that security preparations were well under way for the games.

SECURITY OPERATION

"I was pretty heartened by their desire that it should go off in Zimbabwe without any problems," Bacher said. "We are very reassured by the manner in which they want to handle this security operation during the World Cup."

The tournament has been plagued by doubts over plans to hold matches in both Zimbabwe and Kenya, where security fears sharpened in December after suicide bombers killed 12 people in an attack on an Israeli-owned hotel in Mombasa.

Forty-six of the 54 World Cup matches are being held in South Africa where the tournament starts on February 9.

Speed and Bacher said that Zimbabwe had repeated assurances that all international journalists accredited to cover World Cup matches would be permitted to enter the country which has recently tightened restrictions on foreign reporters.

Several international media organisations were this week denied visas to travel to Zimbabwe with a World Food Programme mission to survey critical food shortages now faced by more than half of the country's 14 million people.

"We understand from the government that international journalists accredited for the event will be able to come here to cover the cricket...freely," Speed told reporters.

Bacher added that Zimbabwean police had promised that opposition supporters -- several of whom have recently been arrested in what they describe as a pre-cricket clampdown by Mugabe's government -- would be allowed to stage protests during the competition.

"We've got the assurance from the (police) commissioner today that provided the process is proper... then they will permit peaceful protest demonstration," Bacher said.

Zimbabwe cricket officials felt confident they had met all security requirements for the ICC. "We're very happy with the plan that was presented," Zimbabwe Cricket Union (ZCU) chief executive Vince Hogg said.

© Copyright 2003 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.


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