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ECB, UK govt meet Thursday

London: The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) will meet the British government on Thursday to discuss whether England should play their World Cup match in Zimbabwe, an ECB spokeswoman said on Monday.

Several British politicians have called for the team to boycott the February 13 game in Harare as a show of opposition to the Robert Mugabe regime.

Zimbabwe is scheduled to host six of the 54 matches in the World Cup tournament, which is being staged in southern Africa from February 9 to March 23.

ECB chief executive Tim Lamb will head the team of officials who will meet the government after he returns from Australia where England have just completed the Ashes.

The British government has said it cannot order the England team not to play in Zimbabwe.

“While it is not for us to tell the ICC or the ECB what to do, it is Mr (Jack) Straw’s (foreign secretary) personal view that it would be better if England didn’t go,” a British Foreign office spokesman said.

The weekend murder of an Australian tourist in Zimbabwe underscores the need for a boycott of World Cup matches planned in the strife-torn nation, an Australian foreign ministry spokesman said.

The 27-year-old was stabbed to death on Saturday in an apparent robbery attempt while visiting Victoria Falls in north-western Zimbabwe, the foreign ministry said.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard has openly opposed the Australians playing matches in Zimbabwe. Howard has led international calls for sanctions against Mugabe since his re-election last year.

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