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Zimbabwe dissenters face action: ICC

Countries refusing to play in Zimbabwe during the 2003 World Cup could face legal action, International Cricket Council chief executive Malcolm Speed said on Saturday.

Zimbabwe are due to host six first-round matches in Harare and Bulawayo in February, but fears have been expressed over player safety.

"That (refusing to honour World Cup fixtures) would be in breach of the agreement and there would be consequences," Speed told a news conference.

"The first consequence, I expect, would be an issue of points for the match. There would also be an issue of damages under the various contracts. I certainly hope it won't come to that."

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe's political stand-off with the international community and the violence which has accompanied his controversial land reform programme have drawn calls for the matches to be moved to South Africa.

Australia and England have shown the most concern about playing in Zimbabwe. India, Pakistan, Namibia and the Netherlands are also due to play there.

"Countries can dissent from the majority opinion," Speed said. "If the conclusion in the report is that it's safe to play, and the board endorses that, then the country is bound to play here.

"But we can't force countries to play anywhere in the world."

Speed is leading an ICC delegation to Zimbabwe this week to assess safety and security in the politically volatile country before the World Cup.


He said the delegation has been asked to submit its report to the ICC board in the next 10 days and is satisfied that the group has completed its work.

"We've met with all of those people with whom we sought to meet to address safety and security of the players," Speed said.

"We've worked quite hard over the last three days. We've spoken to a lot of people, and we haven't just restricted ourselves to those persons with whom appointments had been made.

"We've gone a little wider than we intended to go to get a better sense of what's happening in this country."

The delegation met cabinet ministers, the high commissioners of the six countries who are scheduled to play in Zimbabwe, the police, the mayors of Harare and Bulawayo, and the Zimbabwe Cricket Union's (ZCU) security directorate. It also visited the match venues.

"We've always said that it's safe and secure for cricket teams and officials to come to Zimbabwe," said ZCU president Peter Chingoka.

"We're very happy with the process that's been put in place by ICC to deal with this matter."

Speed also said that he has received a written assurance that all accredited journalists would be allowed into the Zimbabwe for the event.

The issue came to a head after two British journalists hoping to cover the ICC trip were refused entry into the country.

"Widespread coverage of the ICC cricket World Cup 2003 is a vital element of the tournament," Speed said in a statement after a meeting with Zimbabwe's minister for education, sport and culture Aeneas Chigwedere earlier on Saturday.

"The minister has acted quickly to assure us that all ICC accredited cricket journalists will be able to cover the matches in Zimbabwe and I appreciate his prompt action in addressing this issue."

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