New Zealand to allow Zimbabwe tours

THE New Zealand government will waive sanctions and allow visas to be issued to players in the Zimbabwe cricket team, which is due to tour New Zealand next year for the first time in 11 years.

New Zealand will tour Zimbabwe in October - its first visit there since 2005 - and a reciprocal tour by Zimbabwe is planned for early 2012.

Foreign minister Murray McCully said yesterday that sanctions applied by New Zealand against Zimbabwe, to express opposition to human rights abuses by the regime of Robert Mugabe, would be waived to allow Zimbabwe's tour to proceed.

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McCully said he had informed New Zealand Cricket that the decision was conditional "on the situation in Zimbabwe not deteriorating in a significant way."

Zimbabwe has not played a Test match since it met India in Harare in 2005 but has made a recent return to international play at Twenty20 and limited-overs international World Cups. Matches are scheduled in the coming weeks between a Zimbabwe XI and 'A' - or second-string - teams from Australia and South Africa.

New Zealand has twice been scheduled to tour Zimbabwe since 2005 but postponed both tours because of concerns around security, human rights and the state of local medical facilities. The October tour marks the third attempt to play the postponed series.

The decision by the New Zealand government to approve the October tour and the return visit by Zimbabwe suggests reduced concern around the Mugabe regime's attacks on political opponents.

"I have taken advice from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and what I've said to New Zealand Cricket is that we have no concerns about them touring Zimbabwe," McCully said.