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Australia will monitor violence in Pakistan following Benazir Bhutto's assassination to gauge whether the national cricket team can safely tour next year, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said Friday.

Rudd said his government would liaise closely with Cricket Australia on security issues surrounding the tour after rioting erupted in Pakistan in the wake of the opposition leader's murder late Thursday.

"We've already seen evidence of violence in the short period of time that's elapsed since the assassination, in the days ahead we don't know what's yet to occur," Rudd told reporters in Melbourne.

"Therefore the most responsible course of action is for us to be in the closest possible contact with Cricket Australia so an appropriate, timely, informed decision can be made about this particular tour."

Rudd said the government's main concern was the safety and security of the Australian team, which is due to arrive in Pakistan on March 10 to play three Tests, five one-dayers and a Twenty20 international.

Cricket Australia spokesman Peter Young said his organisation and the Australian Cricketers' Association would not make a decision on whether to proceed with the tour for several weeks.

"It's an appalling tragedy and we only hope that the civil situation in Pakistan can improve," Young said.

Australia have not toured Pakistan since 1998, with their last scheduled tour in 2002 moved to the neutral venues of Sharjah and Colombo due to security concerns.

Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland said there were currently no plans to move the upcoming tour to neutral venues and, in any case, such a decision rested with Pakistani cricket authorities.

"Right now playing in a neutral venue is not something that's under consideration," Sutherland told reporters in Melbourne.

"There's a commitment to tour Pakistan and we'll be pursuing every avenue we can for that tour to go ahead. Whether we play in a neutral venue is not up to Cricket Australia, it's a matter for the Pakistan Cricket Board."

Sutherland said a decision on whether to tour would not be taken until late February, after consultation with independent and Australian government security experts
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