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EDITIONS
 Monday, 30 December, 2002, 12:10 GMT
'Door open' for cricket row talks
England captain Nasser Hussain hits out
The England team is due in Harare in February
England cricket officials are expected to meet ministers to discuss whether or not the team should play a World Cup match in Zimbabwe in February.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott told BBC News the "door is open" for direct discussions with the England Cricket Board (ECB) on the issue.

Nasser Hussain
I would like the government and politicians to make the decision for us because we are going to be ambassadors for our game and our country

Nasser Hussain

England are scheduled to play just one World Cup match in Zimbabwe, with the rest in South Africa.

Because of the human rights record of President Robert Mugabe's regime, the government is keen for England to pull out of the game.

But it cannot order such a move and the ECB has been warned it could face a hefty compensation claim if it withdraws.

A Zimbabwe High Commission spokesman accused the British Government of "double standards" because it had taken no action to stop UK businesses trading in Zimbabwe."

Tim Lamb, the ECB's chief executive, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme it was not for sporting bodies to make moral or political judgements on the issue.

He said it was time to meet with ministers to put their concerns on the table.

Mr Prescott told BBC Radio Five Live: "If (Tim Lamb) wants to continue discussions, even at a direct level, the door is open to him.

"I am sure ministers have made clear what the government position is."

Hussain appeal

England cricket captain Nasser Hussain called on the government to decide whether the team should play in Harare.

WHO WANTS WHAT
GOVERNMENT SHOULD DECIDE: The Tories, captain Nasser Hussain and former captain Graham Gooch
BOYCOTT: Aid minister Clare Short, several Labour MPs and former skipper David Gower
CRICKET SHOULD DECIDE: The government and most players
TOUR SHOULD GO AHEAD: World cup organisers and former skipper Mike Gatting
Zimbabwe's opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said Nasser Hussain would be "endorsing" Mr Mugabe's regime if he came to the country.

He said Mr Mugabe would exploit the match politically and the issue was symbolic, as a boycott would "send the right signal that Zimbabwe is an isolated country".

U-turn claim

The ICC has heaped further pressure on the ECB by warning of a possible 1m compensation bill for pulling out of the Zimbabwe game.

It has already been made clear England would effectively forfeit the match if it chose not to play for what the ICC calls "political considerations"

President Mugabe has been criticised for his policy of seizing land owned by white farmers, and for systematic violence against political opponents.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Shaun Ley
"The team captain says it is for the government to advise them"
  Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott
"The government cannot stop them going"
  ECB chief executive Tim Lamb
"The government is happy to leave the decision to us"
 VOTE RESULTS
Should England play cricket in Zimbabwe?

Yes
 28.57% 

No
 71.43% 

56962 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion
Calls grow for World Cup matches in Zimbabwe to be boycotted

Zimbabwe decision

Background

Have your say

FIXTURES

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See also:

30 Dec 02 | Cricket
29 Dec 02 | Cricket
29 Dec 02 | Politics
16 Dec 02 | Sports Talk
28 Dec 02 | Cricket
30 Dec 02 | Africa
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