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Kimberley Process Clears Zimbabwe Diamonds for Export; US Chairmanship Mooted

Zimbabwean Mines Minister Obert Mpofu said Harare is committed to upholding Kimberley standards “in a way that has never been seen before" and that Harare was much relieved to see a Western embargo lifted

The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, meeting Tuesday in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, cleared Zimbabwe to resume the supervised export of diamonds from its troubled Marange field, in a deal brokered by the European Union.

Sources said that under the new Kimberley deal, the United States might assume the group's deputy chairmanship of the group and take the chair in January 2012, though a State Department official said Washington was still evaluating this possibility.

State Department Special Adviser for Conflict Diamonds Brad Brooks-Rubin told VOA that the United States abstained from the Kinshasa vote but did not attempt to block the decision to allow Harare to re-enter legitimate international diamond markets.

"The Kimberley Process adopted a decision that was brokered by the European Union, by the DRC, by a number of other parties," Brooks-Rubin said from Kinshasa.

"We maintain our concerns about the situation in Zimbabwe," he said. "We have taken positions that we have because we want to see the Marange diamond fields benefiting all Zimbabweans, but we recognize that this issue has been a stalemate for some time in the KP and we came to the decision that although we could not support the agreement, we believe the Kimberley Process needs to move past the stalemate."

He was asked about reports that the United States might within a few months assume the chairmanship of the watchdog group. "We have not yet agreed to be the chair. The selection committee in the Kimberley Process hasn't met yet. They meet tomorrow and we are still at a stage of assessing our potential candidacy,"

Two companies engaged in joint ventures with Harare in the Marange field - Marange Resources and Mbada Diamonds – can now sell their diamond stocks into international markets. Kimberley monitors Abbey Chikane of South Africa and Mark Van Bockstel, current chairman of the World Diamond Council’s technical committee, will soon inspect the operations of a third joint venture company, Anjin Investments of China.

World Diamond Council President Eli Izhakoff told VOA reporter Joe De Capua that the deal went a long way to healing rifts in the Kimberly Process over the Marange field.

Speaking from Kinshasa, Zimbabwe Mines Minister Obert Mpofu said that Zimbabwe is committed to upholding Kimberley standards “in a way that has never been seen before." He said Harare is greatly relieved that it can legally sell its diamonds internationally.

But non-governmental organizations which boycotted the Kinshasa meeting to protest what they said was a weak Kimberley stance on human rights in Marange were unhappy with the agreement. Research Director Allan Martin of Partnership Africa Canada said the deal shortchanges ordinary Zimbabweans and favors a small elite.

The Kimberley Process local focal point or NGO representative in Harare, Shamiso Mtisi, said non-governmental organizations are especially displeased that the new agreement has removed them from their former oversight role.

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Regional Coordinator Dewa Mavhinga said the civil society coalition will meet in Europe later this month to map strategy.

Elsewhere, legislator Eddie Cross of the Movement For Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said that he has received death threats following revelations he made in Parliament last week as to the alleged plunder of Marange diamonds by members of the national security forces and top officials.

Cross submitted a motion last week calling on Harare to nationalize the field. He said sales figures offered by Mines Minister Mpofu did not tally with independent calculations. He said 2010 revenues exceeded $4 billion and the state lost some $2.7 billion.

Parliament adopted the motion, which was sent to Prime Minister Tsvangirai for submission to the Cabinet and eventual debate.

Cross said he that he will continue fighting for nationalization of the Marange resource in spite of the death threats. He said it would be criminal for lawmakers to allow the current situation in Marange to continue even though the Kimberley Process has given a green light for Harare to resume international diamond sales.