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Australia government to pay fine if Zimbabwe tour canned

By Julian Linden
May 04, 2007 11:05 IST
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Prime Minister John Howard says the Australian government will cover any financial penalties that may be imposed if the national cricket team boycotts their scheduled tour of Zimbabwe for political reasons.

Cricket Australia could be hit with a $2 million fine from the International Cricket Council (ICC) if they refuse to tour Zimbabwe as scheduled later this year.

"We would indemnify Cricket Australia for any compensation that it might have to pay to the international body," Howard told Australian radio on Friday.

"It would not be fair to visit the cost of a foreign policy decision on a sporting body."

The Australian government began talks last month with cricket authorities about the possibility of cancelling the tour after

politicians began calling for it to be scrapped.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer has said the three-match tour, scheduled to take place in September, could be seen as sending the wrong signal to Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe.

Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980, is accused by critics of political and human rights abuses and economic mismanagement.

Western critics, including Britain and the United States, have threatened economic sanctions on Mugabe and his government, which is already battling Zimbabwe's worst economic crisis in decades, with inflation now topping 1,700 percent.

The ICC is under intense pressure to take away Zimbabwe's status as a Test playing nation.

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Julian Linden
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