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EC Dismisses Harare Claim Of Political Motive In Diamond Investigation

A spokeswoman for the European Commission, which currently chairs the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme, has dismissed as baseless Zimbabwe's charge that an investigation into alleged smuggling of diamonds is politically motivated.

Mines Minister Amos Midzi told the state-controlled Herald newspaper this week that Western countries are looking for reasons to isolate Harare and have seized on the allegations by the New York-based World Diamond Council that Zimbabwean gems have been smuggled out of the country bypassing Kimberly certification.

European Commission spokeswoman Emma Udwin said Kimberly Process officials are obliged to address concerns raised as to alleged Kimberly Process violations.

A World Diamond Council official lodged a complaint with the Kimberly Process saying diamonds from mines in Beitbridge, in Matebeleland South province, and Marange in the eastern highlands, were being diverted to South Africa and other countries.

George Smith, an advisor to the River Ranch group that controls the Beitbridge mine, said his clients met Friday with European Union Ambassador to Zimbabwe Xavier Marshal. He said the ambassador stressed that the probe was not political.

Harare has expressed fears that the diamond allegations would be used to further isolate the country, whose governing elite, including President Robert Mugabe, is subject to targeted sanctions including travel bans and asset freezing.

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Coordinator Jacob Mafume, a human rights lawyer, told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the targeted sanctions imposed since 2002 are about the defense of human rights, not diamonds.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...