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Last Updated: Sunday, 21 August 2005, 04:04 GMT 05:04 UK
Zimbabwe is facing new ban threat
Zimbabwe is facing another threat to its international cricket future.

British ministers Jack Straw and Tessa Jowell have written jointly to the International Cricket Council asking for the country to be banned.

The latest move is in response to Zimbabwe's worsening human rights abuses under president Robert Mugabe.

Mugabe has come under increasing fire for his "Drive Out Rubbish" slum clearance programme which has seen 700,000 people lose their homes.

He insists it is a crack-down on black market trading and other criminal activities in slum areas.

But opponents say it is designed to punish urban residents who rejected Mugabe in recent elections.

The British Government came under fire last year for not stopping England's cricket tour of Zimbabwe.

Ministers said they had not wanted the tour to go ahead but said the Government could have been sued if it intervened.

England players made no secret of their reluctance to become involved in a political row but the England and Wales Cricket Board was able to fulfil tour commitments.

Now Mr Straw, the Foreign Secretary, and Jowell, the Culture Secretary, want the ICC to take action and send a powerful message to Mugabe, who has made political capital out of international cricket.

In the letter, they wrote: "We would now like to ask if the ICC could reflect on the current situation and take a view on whether or not they see international cricket fixtures against and/or in Zimbabwe to be appropriate while such widespread human rights abuses are taking place."

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