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US Urges Zimbabwe to Comply With Minimum Requirements of Kimberly Process

Zimbabwean Mines Minister Obert Mpofu has brandished the threat that Zimbabwe will bypass Kimberly and sell some 400,000 carats of stockpiled diamonds if the organization should withhold certification

The United States has said it strongly opposes the export of diamonds from Zimbabwe's controversial Marange field before the Kimberly Process reaches a consensus on whether to certify such stones for export.

The statement followed the failure late last week of the 70-member organization to reach a consensus on whether diamonds from Marange should be certified for export and sale on international markets. Non-governmental organizations say human rights abuses continue in Marange as does smuggling of diamonds.

Mines Minister Obert Mpofu has brandished the threat that Zimbabwe will bypass Kimberly and sell some 400,000 carats of stockpiled diamonds if the organization should withhold certification. That decision has been deferred until next month when key Kimberly members will gather in St. Petersburg, Russia, next month.

U.S. State Department Spokesman P.J. Crowley said Zimbabwe should take steps to halt smuggling of diamonds from the Marange field and should address human rights abuses in the eastern district.

The European Union meanwhile was urging Kimberly Process officials and Zimbabwe to intensify efforts to reach consensus on steps to bring mining operations in Marange into compliance with minimum standards.

Following last week’s deadlocked Kimberly meeting, Mpofu charged that representatives of Human Rights Watch and Partnership Africa Canada tried to bribe him in connection with the controversy.

Human Rights Watch Researcher Tiseke Kasampala told VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira that Mpofu is trying to distract attention from the real issues around diamonds from the Marange field.

“We reject outright this malicious and unsubstantiated allegation, Global Witness campaign Annie Dunnebacke said.

"At no point did any of the non-governmental organizations at the meeting make any kind of offer of conditional support for exports. The violence that continues to plague Zimbabwe’s Marange diamond fields – and the government’s blatant disregard for Kimberley Process rules – indisputably signify that no exports should take place now,” Dunnebacke said.

Mpofu, who led Zimbabwe’s delegation at the Tel Aviv meeting, told state media the rights groups 'wanted 1 percent of our sales from Chiadzwa for their operations' and that in return they 'would lobby for the endorsement of our diamonds.'

“This is a cynical and amoral attempt by minister Mpofu to distract from the organized smuggling and human rights abuses being carried out by state institutions, in direct contravention of Kimberley Process minimum requirements, and from his efforts and those of his ZANU-PF cronies to capture the country’s diamond wealth for their own personal benefit,” said Alan Martin from PAC.

“The Kimberley Process managed to salvage some of its credibility last week by refusing to endorse a resumption of exports from Marange. Zimbabwe seems intent upon damaging the scheme further with this latest slur.”

Elsewhere, authorities have moved Mutare diamond activist Farai Maguwu, director of the Center for Research and Development, from the private Avenues Clinic to a prison hospital.

Attorney Johane Zviuya, defending Maguwu on charges he published false reports injurious to state interests, says his client will be in court for another bail hearing on Wednesday.