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Government halts Australia's tour to Zimbabwe

Prime Minister John Howard has ordered Australia's cricket team to pull out of their proposed tour of Zimbabwe, citing 'grubby dictator' Robert Mugabe.

cricket Updated: May 13, 2007 14:47 IST
Miles Evans

Australian Prime Minister John Howard has ordered Australia's cricket team to pull out of their proposed tour of Zimbabwe.

Howard said on Sunday he had instructed Foreign Minister Alexander Downer to contact Cricket Australia to tell them the planned one-day series in September would be cancelled.

"The government through the foreign minister has written to the organisation of Cricket Australia instructing that the tour not go ahead," Howard told local media on Sunday.

"We don't do this lightly, but we are convinced that for the tour to go ahead there would be an enormous propaganda boost to the (Robert) Mugabe regime.

"The Mugabe regime is behaving like the Gestapo towards its political opponents. The living standards in the country are probably the lowest of any in the world, you have an absolutely unbelievable rate of inflation.

"I have no doubt that if this tour goes ahead it will be an enormous boost to this grubby dictator."

The government had said earlier in the week that it would indemnify Cricket Australia against any financial loss incurred as a result of cancelling the tour, estimated to be around A$2.4 million ($2 million).

Howard also said he was confident that the decision had solid legal grounding.

"We do have power over people's passports," he said.

"We have made our position very clear. We've written to Cricket Australia, I think Cricket Australia does understand our position."

Cricket Australia Chief Executive James Sutherland is scheduled to hold a press conference later on Sunday.