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MINES Minister Obert Mpofu has dimissed as inconsequential the move by a leading United States-based diamond trading network to bar its members from dealing in gems extracted from the Marange fields saying Zimbabwe would sell its stones where they are welcome.

The US-based Rapaport Diamond Trading Network said although the Marange diamonds had received KP endorsement, it will not allow its members to trade in them.

"Members found to have knowingly offered Marange diamonds for sale on RapNet will be expelled and their names will be publicly communicated," it said in a statement.

However Mpofu said he was "not surprised at all" by the move.

"You might be aware that America, the European Union and the United Kingdom have made every effort to make Zimbabwe fail," Mpofu told a Germany news agency.

"In any case, these countries do not constitute the entire market of diamonds. We will sell our stones to countries where they are welcome. We have countries like Russia, China, India and other Asian countries where we can market our diamonds."

The US and other western governments recently led opposition to the lifting of the ban imposed by the Kimberly Process (KP) certification scheme on Marange diamond exports during meetings held in Israel and Russia.

However, the KP, set up to keep "blood diamonds" - stones from conflict zones - out of global gem trade, last week endorsed the sale of 900,000 carats from the controversial Marange fields.

The auction raised about US$72 million.

But Wetern human rights activists have called for a ban on Marange, where Zimbabwe's army is accused of widespread atrocities when it moved in to guard the poorly secured fields after a diamond rush drew up to 30 000 informal diggers.

The government denies the allegations.

The country says it has stockpiled nearly 4 million carats of diamonds since the start of the year, estimated by state media to be worth $1.7 billion.

Authorities say the diamond revenues can help fix the struggling economy which is recovering from a decade-long recession.


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