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Kimberley Process Debate on Broader Certification for Zimbabwe Diamonds Stalls

African member nations and Asian allies of Zimbabwe are pushing the Kimberley Process to let Harare sell such diamonds without continued close supervision

Kimberley Process members meeting this week in Jerusalem have deadlocked again on the subject of diamonds from Zimbabwe's controversial Marange field, with African member nations and Asian allies of Zimbabwe pushing the watchdog organization to let Harare sell such diamonds without continued close supervision.

Sources said a meeting of a Kimberley working group on monitoring on Monday night was adjourned to Tuesday after delegates failed to agree on the way forward based on a report from a Kimberley review mission.

Zimbabwe Mines Minister Obert Mpofu refused to discuss the report, contending it had arrived late and should be declared null and void. He demanded Zimbabwe be allowed to export diamonds without Kimberley supervision.

The discussion of Zimbabwe was deferred to Wednesday, sources said, but informal discussions continued.

Researcher Tiseke Kasambala of Human Rights Watch, which has been urging the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme to bar exports of diamonds from Marange, said the current deadlock is worrisome. Human Rights Watch says human rights abuses including forced labor continue within the Marange diamond zone.

Lawyer Shamiso Mtisi, coordinator of Kimberley’s so-called local Zimbabwean focal point of civil society organizations, said it is likely that Kimberley supervision of Marange diamond auctions will continue.

The civic group has six member organizations - the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, the Environmental Lawyers Association, the Counseling Services Unit, the Center for Research and Development in Mutare, the National Association of Non-Governmental Organizations and the Women's Coalition.

Mtisi said that ideally the group will work with the Kimberley Process monitor for Zimbabwe, Abbey Chikane of South Africa, and the Zimbabwe government to obtain access to all areas in the Marange or Chiadzwa diamond field which until relatively recently was off-limits even to the mining committee of the Zimbabwean Parliament.

Sources in Jerusalem said Kimberley Process officials, beyond the human rights issues on the table, are also worried that if Harare is given permission to sell Marange diamonds without restriction, the government and its commercial partners may offload stockpiles of rough gems onto the market, wreaking havoc on world prices.

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