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Zimbabwe Mines Minister's U.S. Travel Ban Lifted for Kimberley Meeting

The United States has temporarily lifted travel bans against Zimbabwean Mines Minister, Obert Mpofu and officials from the state-run Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation, allowing them to travel to Washington for a crucial Kimberley Process intersessional meeting.

The U.S. is hosting the meeting where participants will focus on proposals to change the definition of blood diamonds, among other issues. The U.S. holds the Kimberley Process chairmanship through 2012.

Mpofu told VOA his delegation is not interested in debating human rights.

He accused nations like the U.S. of trying to frustrate Zimbabwe by blocking its diamonds from the Marange fields in Manicaland, from reaching lucrative international markets.

"We are not going to be party to those discussions at all," said Mpofu. "Our message is clear that Zimbabwe is a founding member of the Kimberley Process and those who want to get rid of us can do so at the peril of the organization."

Recently, Ambassador Gillian Milovanovic, the Kimberley Process chair, said there was an urgent need to modernize the functions of the diamond watchdog, adding the term conflict diamonds must accurately reflect today’s concerns where governments and not rebels, are abusing people's rights.

"We cannot be everything to everyone and our role is to cover the rough distribution process," she said. "The term conflict diamonds must accurately reflect today’s concerns as it did in 2002 when the Kimberley Process was being formed."

But countries like Zimbabwe, which have been accused of abusing the rights of individuals and illegal miners in Marange, are opposing the move to change the definition.

Mpofu says the new proposals are meant to stop countries like Zimbabwe from benefiting from their resources.

Kimberley Process local focal point person Shamiso Mtisi says his team will push for changes and transparency within the diamond watchdog group.

"There's lack of transparency in the Kimberley Process and we want this to change," said Mtisi.

"But more importantly for us as Zimbabweans, we want the definition of blood diamond to be changed to reflect the times that we are living in. I know there are many people against it but it has to be done."

The three-day meeting in Washington starts June 4. Participants will discuss a range of topics related to the mining and trading of conflict-free rough diamonds.