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Home > Cricket > The Cup > Reuters > Report

Australia to hold talks over Zimbabwe tour

March 19, 2007 16:43 IST

The Australian government said on Monday it will hold talks with Cricket Australia about whether the national team's scheduled September tour of Zimbabwe should go ahead in the light of the latest political violence.

"I've not been a great fan of cricket tours to Zimbabwe," Foreign Minister Alexander Downer told local radio.

"Once the World Cup is over, we'll talk to the Australian Cricket Board about this, but we won't be doing that while they're focussing on the World Cup," Downer said.

"The final decision (rests) with the Australian Cricket Board and the International Cricket Council," he said.

Australia has long been a vocal critic of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and last week joined an international chorus of criticism over the arrest and apparent beating of Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

Mugabe's government says Tsvangirai and his group had resisted arrest and waged a violent, militia-style campaign to topple him from power.

Australia has demanded that African countries support tougher sanctions against Zimbabwe, singling out South Africa for not putting enough pressure on Mugabe.

Critics of Mugabe, 83, Zimbabwe's leader since independence from Britain in 1980, accuse him of ruining the country's economy and clamping down on any dissent.

Zimbabwe's opposition says another of its legislators was badly beaten on Sunday as he tried to travel to Belgium, a day after his colleagues were stopped from taking a medical trip to South Africa.

Mugabe's current six-year term ends in 2008 but the ruling party last December circulated a motion to hold presidential elections in 2010 when the parliamentary vote is due.

Four years ago Australia led moves to suspend Zimbabwe from the 53-nation Commonwealth following flawed presidential elections, prompting Mugabe to quit the organisation.

The latest political crackdown comes as Zimbabwe faces a deepening economic crisis with inflation at more than 1,700 percent, unemployment of 80 percent and shortages of food, fuel and foreign exchange.

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