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04/11/2010 00:00:00
by Associated Press/Staff Reporter
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CONFERENCE organisers say the global diamond industry's oversight body has upheld a ban preventing Zimbabwe from exporting its vast stockpile of diamonds from Marange district.

Israel Diamond Institute spokeswoman Sharon Gefen says talks by the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme ended Thursday without a compromise.

Israel sponsored this year's gathering of the 75-nation global body responsible for ending the trade of diamonds that fund fighting across Africa.

Zimbabwe wants to export diamonds from its Marange field. It denies allegations by human rights groups of forced labour, torture, beatings and harassment by government troops there.

Zimbabwe has threatened to flood the world market with underpriced diamonds if it is not allowed to export.

Members of the Kimberley Process diamond watchdog began talks in Jerusalem on Monday over whether to allow Zimbabwe to resume exports of the gemstone.

The Kimberley Process suspended its certification of the Marange fields last year.
But its own appointed Zimbabwe monitor, Abbey Chikane, has recommended that the ban be lifted.

Despite the recommendation, Australia and the United States remained opposed to a resumption of diamond exports by Zimbabwe. The KP, which is a voluntary body, operates by consensus.

The KP agreed in July to allow Zimbabwe to export two shipments of diamonds if Kimberley Process monitors were given access to the Marange fields.

Ahead of the meeting, Human Rights Watch called on the organisation to ban all diamond exports from Zimbabwe "until the government makes clear progress in ending abuses and smuggling."

The New York-based rights group said research carried out between July and September showed large parts of the Marange fields remained under the control of Zimbabwe's military, which was smuggling diamonds and abusing local workers.

"The government made a lot of promises, but soldiers still control most diamond fields and are involved in illicit mining and smuggling," HRW Africa director Rona Peligal said in a statement.

"Zimbabwe should mine its diamonds without relying on an abusive military that preys on the local population.”

Zimbabwe’s black empowerment lobby outfit, the Affirmative Action Group (AAG), warned this week that if Zimbabwe was not allowed to export its diamonds it would “push the government of Zimbabwe to proceed with open sales of all diamonds including the stockpile.”


The AAG added: “As we understand it, the country is not short of buyers who do not care about Kimberley Process certification.”

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