Miners dig for diamonds in Marange, eastern Zimbabwe, November 1, 2006. (file photo)
Miners dig for diamonds in Marange, eastern Zimbabwe, November 1, 2006. (file photo)

Zimbabwe has reached an agreement to sell diamonds mined from the country's controversial Marange fields.

The World Diamond Council says the deal was reached Tuesday at a meeting in Congo's capital, Kinshasa.  It was ratified by members of the Kimberley Process, a system to prevent so-called "blood diamonds" from reaching international markets.

The agreement allows two Marange operations to sell diamonds on the international market.  A third field, run by Chinese miner Angin, will be allowed to resume sales following verification by Kimberley monitors.

Human rights groups have accused Zimbabwe of deploying its military in the Marange fields and killing and torturing civilians working there.  There have also been allegations of smuggling and skimming of revenue by those close to President Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party.

Zimbabwean Mines Minister Obert Mpofu told VOA that Harare is committed to upholding Kimberley Process requirements ?in a way that has never been seen before."

However, activists on the issue tell VOA they are not happy with Tuesday's deal.

One activist, Shamiso Mtisi, said the agreement removes a "local focal point" that would have pushed Zimbabwe's government for openness and transparency in the production and marketing of Marange gems.

Meanwhile, a State Department spokesman said the United States abstained from the vote on the new deal, and is considering whether it wishes to succeed the Democratic Republic of Congo as Kimberley chair in January, which has been mooted.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.