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Page last updated at 12:15 GMT, Friday, 30 April 2010 13:15 UK

North Korea trip 'not finalised'

North Korea's World Cup players in training
The North Koreans have very few friends in Bulawayo

Zimbabwe on Friday appeared to back away from an announcement that North Korea's national team would train in the country ahead of the World Cup.

This follows protests over the Asian country's role in training an army unit accused of killing thousands of people.

Tourism Minister Walter Mzembi last month announced the North Korean team would train in Zimbabwe.

But Sports Minister David Coltart said on Friday the visit had not been finalised.

"First of all, it has not been confirmed that they are coming at all.

"If they did come, clearly, we will handle it in a sensitive way that recognises the history and emotions around the matter," Coltart said.

Even if they camp in Harare, we will still organise the protests

Methuseli Moyo
Zimbabwe opposition politician

The original announcement triggered protests from opposition groups in south-western Matabeleland provinces where rights groups say a North Korean-trained army unit killed an estimated 20,000 people during President Robert Mugabe's crackdown on an insurgency in the region in the 1980s.

Coltart declined to comment on reports that the government had changed initial plans to have the North Koreans set up camp in Bulawayo, the main city in Matabeleland.

"The issue is now being handled in cabinet, so it is premature for me to speculate on how their visit will be managed," Coltart said.

Zimbabwe, whose tourism industry has declined sharply because of a decade-long economic and political crisis, has been courting nations that qualified for the World Cup finals to visit the country en route to South Africa, in a bid to boost revenue.

But political groups and rights activists in Matabeleland say they will protest against the North Koreans, even if they do not come to Bulawayo.

"We are relieved that they are no longer coming to Bulawayo, but we're worried that they could still be coming to Zimbabwe," said Methuseli Moyo, a spokesperson for the small opposition party ZAPU, which comprises mainly Matabeleland's Ndebele ethnic group.

"It should be the concern of every Zimbabwean that North Korea trained those who perpetrated the atrocities. Even if they camp in Harare, we will still organise the protests."

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see also
Tracking down a massacre
07 May 08 |  Africa
Undercover in Zimbabwe
09 Mar 02 |  From Our Own Correspondent
North Korea to camp in Zimbabwe
07 Apr 10 |  African
North Korea revive World Cup memories
18 Jun 09 |  Asia-Pacific
North Korea's secretive footballers
07 Feb 02 |  Asia-Pacific
North Korea: A political history
09 Jun 00 |  Asia-Pacific

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