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Kimberley Process Monitor Arrives in Zimbabwe

A monitor from the Kimberly Certification Process, which was set up to end international trade in conflict diamonds, has arrived in Harare to check on output from controversial diamond mining in eastern Zimbabwe.

Mining Minister Obert Mpofu, a senior member of President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party, says Zimbabwe has done its best to comply with Kimberley Process standards. He denies reports by Human Rights Watch that gross abuses, including murders, have taken place at the Chiadzwa diamond fields in eastern Zimbabwe.

Last November, a meeting of Kimberley Process members in Namibia rejected pressure to expel Zimbabwe, and decided instead that it would appoint a monitor to check on production from the Chiadzwa diamond fields.

It chose an experienced diamond expert from the United Kingdom, who Zimbabwe rejected. It then accepted South African Abbey Chikane.

According to Ian Smillie, one of the architects of the Kimberley Process, Chikane will have no powers to stop any diamond smuggling or even human-rights abuses at the diamond fields. He says the Kimberley Process's decisions on Zimbabwe in Namibia were no more than a "face-saving exercise."

Smillie said the Zimbabwe monitor's powers, as defined in Namibia, were to check on certification of diamonds for legal export, which he said Zimbabwe was already doing properly.

Smillie quit the Kimberley Process last year, citing ineptitude and failure to discipline countries that he said ignore rules set up six years ago to end trade in conflict diamonds.

Earlier this year, two new local companies backed by financiers from South Africa and Mauritius were given licenses to mine for diamonds in the Chiadzwa fields.

Zimbabwe's Supreme Court has ordered all diamond mining in eastern Zimbabwe to stop until a dispute over ownership of two of the diamond fields is finalized. In Mutare, the closest city to the diamond fields, several people involved in providing support services to operations in the Chiadzwa fields say mining is continuing.

Chikane has said he would go to inspect the diamond fields and will visit Zimbabwe once a month as part of his monitoring assignment.

Mr. Mugabe said last week that if Zimbabwe was unable to comply with the Kimberley Process it would go it alone and sell its diamonds to any buyer.