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Peacemaker Warne to bowl over Victorians

Cricket legend Shane Warne has been recruited to try and help soothe tensions between Australia and India over a series of violent attacks on Indian students in his home city.

The retired leg-spinner will meet with government leaders to discuss ways he can use his popularity in both India and Australia to repair strained relations in Melbourne.

"I believe I can make a difference, and that's important," Warne said in the Victoria state city. "If I can help the relationship between both countries and make a difference, I'm putting my hand up to do that."

A string of attacks on Indian nationals living in Australia since last year triggered protests by Australian-based Indian students and generated heavy media coverage in India, including claims that the attacks are based on race.

Australian officials condemned the attacks -- most of them in Melbourne -- and maintain that Australia is not a racist nation. Police investigating the attacks say race-based claims are premature.

The issue has reached government level, with Australian ministers travelling to India to try to ease negative public perceptions, and with New Delhi asking Canberra to take instant steps to curb violence against its citizens in the country.

Warne was the top wicket-taker in Test cricket when he retired in 2007 and is currently contracted as captain-coach of the Jaipur-based Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League Twenty20 event.

Warne said he does not consider racism to be widespread in his country and that he would be willing to travel to India to try to help repair the rift between the two nations.

Victoria state leader John Brumby said the cricketer's involvement was a positive development: "The Indian public love cricket, they love him, and I think the more we can build on that, the better it will be for our relationship."