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News

NZ government backs Howard's Zimbabwe decision

The New Zealand government is understood to be rethinking its position on sporting tours to Zimbabwe following John Howard's decision to ban the Australian side from visiting the country

Cricinfo staff
15-May-2007


Helen Clark: 'We New Zealanders value our freedom to travel' © Getty Images
The New Zealand government is understood to be rethinking its position on sporting tours to Zimbabwe following John Howard's decision to ban the Australian side from visiting the country for three ODIs in September.
However, Helen Clark, the prime minister, who is a vocal critic of the Mugabe regime, said that her country was not legally allowed to prevent players or teams traveling to a particular country.
But New Zealand's foreign minister, Winston Peters, called the Australian stance "quite a compelling one" and said New Zealand had to consider its attitude on future tours.
"If Australia's decision puts more pressure on the ICC to show some leadership themselves ... then that is great," a spokesman for Peters said. "We have believed for some time that it shouldn't be left up to individual governments or national cricket bodies. The ICC should recognise the problem with Zimbabwe and remove them from the international calendar."
Green MP Keith Locke said Australia had shown moral leadership and had embarrassed the New Zealand government by refusing to let its cricket team tour Zimbabwe this year.
Two years ago the government said it disapproved of New Zealand touring Zimbabwe but stopped short of banning the side from taking part. They did, however, refuse entry visas for a planned return trip by Zimbabwe, leading to that series being scrapped.
There have now been calls for New Zealand to consider amending its own legislation. "What I'm advised is that New Zealand would have had to specifically legislate to cancel passports to stop people going to Zimbabwe," Clark said. "Now, that is not a choice that we made to go down that track. We New Zealanders value our freedom to travel. Now, we don't have a tradition of cancelling passports for these kinds of reasons and I think there would be quite a lot of public debate about that."
She went on to explain that in her view the situation inside Zimbabwe was far worse than it had been in 2005.