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EDITIONS
 Monday, 30 December, 2002, 10:58 GMT
Blair briefs Tory leader on cricket row
England captain Nasser Hussain (right) leads his players off the field
England's players are coming under pressure
Tony Blair set out the government's position on whether the England cricket team should play a World Cup match in Zimbabwe in a letter to Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith on Sunday evening.

He was replying to a letter from Mr Duncan Smith, accusing the government of mishandling the issue "in a dangerous and neglectful way".

Mr Blair said the government was against the trip but the final decision lay with the England and Wales Cricket Board. Here is the full text of his letter.

Dear Iain,

Thank you for your letter of 29 December about the cricket World Cup.

The government's position is clear.

The decision on whether England should play in Zimbabwe rests with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) - an independent sporting body.

The ECB can be in no doubt about the government's views

There are no legal powers available to the government to ban a sporting team from participation.

However, in the light of the deteriorating political and humanitarian situation in the country, ministers have made clear that if the decision were for them, England should not play in Zimbabwe.

Mike O'Brien did so in the House of Commons on 17 December and others have done so since.

While this matter rightly rests with the ECB, they should reach a decision in full knowledge of the political and humanitarian situation, and the likelihood that conditions in Zimbabwe will deteriorate further in the next six weeks.

That is why FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) officials have been in touch with senior executives in the ECB on these issues since October, well before the ICC (International Cricket Council), of which the ECB is a member, announced their decision to go ahead with matches in Zimbabwe.

FCO officials also made clear that ministers would be happy to discuss this further with the ECB.

The ECB can be in no doubt about the government's views.

Yours ever, Tony.

 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

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