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ICC postpones Women's World Cup qualifiers in Pakistan

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KARACHI (AFP) - The women's cricket World Cup qualifying event -- due to be held in Pakistan later this month -- has been postponed due to security concerns, the game's governing body said Tuesday.

The tournament was scheduled for November 19-25 in Lahore but has been shelved in the wake of the declaration by President Pervez Musharraf of a state of emergency Saturday.

"The decision was arrived at following independent security reports and extensive discussions by ICC (International Cricket Council) management and the ICC women's committee," a statement from the ICC said.

A decision on where and when the tournament will be played will be taken in due course, the statement added.

Eight teams -- Bermuda, Ireland, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Scotland, South Africa, and Zimbabwe were due to compete.

The top two sides would qualify for the ICC Women's World Cup in Australia in 2009.

Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Nasim Ashraf said he was disappointed at the decision to postpone the event.

"We have advised the ICC we feel the event could have been staged as scheduled in two weeks' time in a safe and secure environment," said Ashraf.

"We remain more than capable of and committed to hosting international cricket and we look forward to welcoming teams to Pakistan in the future."

The safety of touring teams in Pakistan has been an issue since the 9/11 attacks on the United States and its aftermath.

Pakistan had to play two of their home series -- against the West Indies and Australia -- at neutral venues in 2002, while New Zealand cut short a tour after a bomb blast outside their hotel in Karachi killed 14 people in May 2002.

South Africa recently completed a tour involving two Tests and five one-day internationals but refused to play the final one-day match in Karachi, where twin bomb blasts targeting former prime minister Benazir Bhutto's homecoming parade killed 139 people on October 18. The match was instead played in Lahore.

ICC chief executive Malcolm Speed also regretted the postponement of the event.

"We remain committed to international cricket being played in Pakistan but, sadly, events beyond the control of the ICC and the PCB have conspired against us on this occasion," Speed said.

"As recently as October 25, the ICC women's committee reaffirmed its commitment to staging the event, as scheduled, in Lahore.

"However, the heightened state of tension within the country over the past few days represents a change in circumstances that we have a duty to consider.

"Safety and security of all participants is a priority and on the basis of the independent advice we have received as well as the material concerns expressed by many of the participating countries we concluded it is not appropriate to stage the tournament at this time," said Speed.
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