Kimberley Process members failed again on Thursday to reach agreement on whether to allow Zimbabwe to export rough diamonds from its controversial Marange field without Kimberley supervision, officials have said.
After deferring discussion for two days, Kimberley members had hoped a consensus could be reached Thursday after informal talks had produced an agreement that was rejected by Canada, Australia and other countries.
Chairman Boaz Hirsch told reporters in Jerusalem the watchdog group will now take an extra two days to see if members can reach a consensus on the highly contentious issue of Kimberley oversight.
"An agreement has not been finalized," said Hirsch. "We hoped to have a consensus today, we believe it will take a few more days...We are still working with Zimbabwe and other countries."
A defiant Zimbabwe Mines Minister Obert Mpofu told the conference and reporters later that Zimbabwe will sell the output from the Marange alluvial field "without any conditions." He said Zimbabwe will start doing that immediately. The minister said he was tired of the West treating Zimbabwe as "one of its entities."
The Kimberley Process, created to prevent the sale of so-called conflict or blood diamonds diamonds on international markets, suspended its certification of Marange diamonds last year citing alleged human rights abuses and other abuses by the military in charge of the Marange zone and other players in exploiting its riches.
Zimbabwean officials denied allegations by human rights groups that forced labor by local residents, torture, harassment, beatings and smuggling by government troops continue in the area.
A recent Kimberley review mission found that low-level intimidation continued, and urged Harare to crack down on the smuggling of diamonds into nearby Mozambique, a way station to the Gulf and other ultimate markets.
It also wants Zimbabwe to demilitarize Marange. The Harare government says it has fully complied with Kimberley rules and is supported by African and Asian countries in its quest to sell diamonds without supervision.
Back in Harare, meanwhile, state media reported that police Thursday arrested six officials of the Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation and Canadile Mining, a government joint venture partner in Marange, on charges of fraud in obtaining permission to mine diamonds in the controversial field.
The state has accused Zimbabwe Mining Development Corp. Chief Executive Dominic Mubaiwa, ZMDC Chairwoman Gloria Mawarire, board members Ashton Ndlovu and Mark Tsomondo, Canadile Mining Secretary Tichaona Muhonde, and company representative Lovemore Kurotwi of duping the government into believing Canadile had sufficient resources to develop the Marange fields at the time the joint venture was formed.
The state-controlled Herald newspaper reported that the executives are alleged to have told the government that a South African company called BSGR wanted to invest US$2 billion in Zimbabwe when it fact it did not exist. A Kimberley Process report praised Canadile, but its future in Marange operations now seems in question.
Zimbabwe Republic Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena said the six were being held at the Braeside Police Station in Harare. He decline to comment further on the high-profile arrests.
For two viewpoints on the discussion in Jerusalem, VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira turned to Tiseke Kasambala, Human Rights Watch researcher on Zimbabwe, and Supa Mandiwanzira, president of the Affirmative Action Group, a Zimbabwean black empowerment organization, both attending the Kimberley Process meeting this week.
Kasambala, whose organization says Harare should not be allowed to freely export Marange diamonds, charges that the government and its partners in developing the Marange field have as failed to comply with a number of terms of a Kimberley Process work plan set out in late 2009. Mandiwanzira said those opposing Zimbabwe's s bid to sell its diamonds at are supporting what he says is the West's ultimate objective of regime change.