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Diamond Industry Debates Zimbabwe Certification


Important voices in the international diamond world are calling on the international regulator to certify Zimbabwe's so-called blood diamonds for export. An important meeting is taking place in the Russian Federation this week where Zimbabwe tries once again to get its controversial rough diamonds certified.

Officials from the Kimberley Process, which was created to end trade in diamonds used to fund conflict and war, are discussing Zimbabwe's controversial rough stones with members of the World Diamond Council in St. Petersburg.

Before the meeting, Zimbabwe Mines Minister Obert Mpofu said Zimbabwe had complied with Kimberley Process requirements, so rough stones from the Marange area in southeastern Zimbabwe should be certified for export.

Mpofu is from the ZANU-PF Party, and he was supported by Finance Minister Tendai Biti, from the Movement for Democratic Change Party. Biti says Zimbabwe's 16-month-old inclusive government desperately needs revenue from diamonds to revive the country's ailing economy. He said last week that Zimbabwe's rough stones from Marange, could not be classified as 'blood diamonds.'

Biti said the government has received no income from illegal sales of Marange diamonds and certification would provide income and exercise some control of the exploitation of the alluvial diamond fields, which have a relatively short production life.

International Diamond Manufacturers President Moti Ganz said in Moscow the Marange stones should be certified because this would improve Zimbabwean lives. He said without immediate certification of the rough stones the diamond market would be flooded with Zimbabwe stones, which would cause "catastrophe" in the diamond trade during a recession.

Ganz and others estimate the Marange stones could account for a quarter of all the world's diamonds.

In parliament Tuesday, President Robert Mugabe again said Zimbabwe would sell its Marange stones regardless of the verdict of the Kimberley Process.

Human Rights Watch and the group Partnership Africa Canada say the Kimberley Process monitor responsible for Zimbabwe has ignored gross human-rights abuses in the Marange area. The human-rights groups say the diamond fields have been "militarized" by Mr. Mugabe's security chiefs.

Several diamond analysts in Israel, which presently chairs the Kimberley Process, say smuggled Zimbabwe diamonds have been sold in India for cutting and polishing. The origin of a cut stone is impossible to establish.

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