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Zimbabwe Escapes Kimberly Process Suspension, But Monitoring to Intensify

Members of the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme meeting in Namibia declined Thursday to suspend Zimbabwe from the organization over its failure to take strong action on human rights and other abuses in the Marange diamond field of eastern Manicaland province.

But the certification and export of diamonds from the controversial alluvial diamond field will be conducted under much closer scrutiny by the international organization.

Sources close to the meeting said Kimberly Process members were divided between those who opposed suspension of Zimbabwe, which included most African members, and Western participants who sought suspension and an international ban on Harare's diamond sales.

The compromise was an export mechanism to be supervised by the Kimberly Process.

Effective immediately, all diamond shipments from the Marange area will be subject to examination and certification prior to export by a Kimberly monitor to ensure that the production and export of rough diamonds complies with standards.

The meeting also agreed upon a phased plan to end the military presence in the Marange field, and stipulated that Zimbabwe's should not be considered conflict diamonds.

The group, which essentially adopted a Harare proposal for responding to the allegations of killings, forced labor and widespread smuggling of diamonds, will provide technical support to Zimbabwean authorities to help them comply with Kimberly Process rules.

Commenting briefly, Mines Minister Obert Mpofu told VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira that Harare is satisfied with the outcome of the high-profile meeting.

But Human Rights Watch, which campaigned for a suspension over what it called “horrific” rights abuses by the military in Marange, voiced disappointment.

Human Rights Watch researcher Tiseke Kasambala said the group should have looked more closely at rights abuses by soldiers which it said caused the deaths of 200 people.

Farai Maguwu of the Center for Research and Development in Mutare, capital of Manicaland province, said the decision reflects poorly on Kimberly Process enforcement.

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