- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 12, 2003

LONDON England's national cricket team said yesterday that it will not appear in a major international match in Zimbabwe scheduled for tomorrow, ratcheting up tensions between the two governments.
The players said they had defied the sport's international governing body by refusing to play because of a written death threat, even though the threat was dismissed by police in southern Africa as a hoax.
The move, announced after weeks of agonizing by the English cricket authorities, was urged a month ago by members of Prime Minister Tony Blair's government who wanted to inflict a major snub to Zimbabwe's leader, Robert Mugabe.
Britain has accused him of instigating sustained violence against white farmers, many of whom are descendants of British colonialists, abusing human rights and fraudulently winning a national election.
The decision has thrown the first week of the world's premier cricket competition into further disarray after the New Zealand team refused to play a match in East Africa because of previous terrorism in Kenya.
A hotel in Kenya was attacked last year by al Qaeda, which also blew up U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar-es-Salaam in 1997. One match was played in Zimbabwe this week, pitting the home team against neighboring Namibia, and five more are scheduled.
Two senior Zimbabwean players wore black armbands during that match in an unprecedented protest, saying later that the armbands symbolized the "death of human rights and democracy" in their country.
The death threat to the English team, now cloistered in a hotel in Cape Town, came from an unknown group calling itself the Sons and Daughters of Zimbabwe. A South African police chief described it as "rubbish of the sort we receive 20 a day."
The decision could cost English cricket authorities as much as $15 million in fines by the International Cricket Council and compensatory payments, primarily to television sponsors.
The British government had opposed English participation in the match, which would have been seen by as many as 1 billion television viewers, for fear it would seem to endorse the rule of Mr. Mugabe.
The World Cup, held once every four years, is extremely popular in many former British territories, including Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and the Caribbean states.

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