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Players to be consulted on Zimbabwe tour

John Howard, the Australian prime minister, wants the ICC to step in as debate over Australia's scheduled tour of Zimbabwe continues

Cricinfo staff

John Howard has again voiced his "distaste" for Robert Mugabe © Getty Images
John Howard, the Australian prime minister, has said that his government will seek the opinion of the players on whether to tour Zimbabwe or not. Cricket Australia (CA) is under pressure to go ahead with the tour in September, with the prospect of being slapped with a massive fine by the ICC, while the Australian government has opposed the tour.
"It is not in the interests of this country that the Australian cricket tour take place and we continue to discuss the matter with Cricket Australia and through them we continue to seek the views of the players," Howard was quoted by AAP.
Howard had earlier called on the ICC to take action against Zimbabwe as the debate over the scheduled tour continues. Howard said his government was caught in a tight spot in this regard. "I am jammed between my distaste for the government getting involved in something like this and my even greater distaste for giving a propaganda victory to Robert Mugabe," Howard said on Australian radio. The government has repeatedly said it wants the series cancelled but the potential for the ICC to fine CA has complicated matters.
"I think the International Cricket Council has responsibilities, yes," Howard said. "But they're like any other body - they're answerable to their constituent members.
"Now, I think there is some evidence emerging that even in those countries that would be very reluctant to see the ICC do anything, that something ought to happen. How long can the international cricket community - not just Australia - go on doing things that give aid and comfort to somebody who has thus far been totally impervious to any entreaties?"
Howard's comments came the day after Alexander Downer, the foreign minister, met with CA to discuss the tour and the possible $US2 million fine. "Our secondary and quite important goal is to see that money we might have to pay as compensation to indemnify Cricket Australia doesn't end up in [Mugabe's] grubby hands, because that would be wrong," Howard said.
He also criticised the neighbouring African countries for not doing enough to put an end to the oppressive regime. "The failure of neighbouring African countries to force Mugabe out is a black mark against them because they should have forced him out long before now," he was quoted by AAP.