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Pakistan government vetoes Jaffna as Sri Lankan venue

© Reuters 2002

KARACHI, March 15 (Reuters) - Pakistan's government barred the country's football team from ending their tour of Sri Lanka with a match in the war-torn Tamil heartland of Jaffna, Pakistan's coach said on Friday.

The Football Federation of Sri Lanka said on Thursday it hoped Pakistan would play in Jaffna as part of efforts to return a sense of normality to a city ravaged by nearly 20 years of ethnic conflict.

"Our foreign ministry did not grant permission to the team to play in Jaffna for security reasons," Pakistan coach Siddique Sheikh told Reuters on the eve of the squad's departure to Sri Lanka.

"We will not play our last match there on March 25," he added.

Norway has brokered a truce between Sri Lanka's government and Tamil guerrillas fighting for an independent homeland, giving hopes that peace could be at hand.

Pakistan will tour Sri Lanka with a 20-member squad and play five matches.

"We have not refused to play the last match on March 25 and it can be held in any other city by our hosts," said Sheikh.

The Sri Lankans had assured all security arrangements for the Pakistan team in Jaffna, which is 300-km (185 miles) north of the capital Colombo.

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