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Western Diplomats Tour Zimbabwe's Controversial Diamond Fields

European Unions diplomats Wednesday took up a Zimbabwe government offer and toured the controversial Marange diamond fields where security forces have in the past been accused of abusing villagers and illegal miners.

The visit was the first by foreign diplomats to the highly secured diamond field. They envoys will continue their tour Thursday, visiting the Arda Transau farm where villagers from Marange were resettled to pave way for the mining operations.

Ambassadors from the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany and Spain were joined by colleagues from Australia and Canada on the tour, with local journalists also tagging along.

Manicaland provincial governor Chris Mushohwe accompanied the ambassadors.

European Union head of delegation to Zimbabwe, Aldo Dell'ariccia told VOA the ambassadors were received well in the diamond mining district, touring two mines, Anjin and Marange Resources where officials led them through the extraction and other processes.

Anjin is a join venture between Harare and the Chinese. Dell'ariccia said the although the diplomats asked questions, they were cognizant of the fact that managers at the mines could not answer some of them satisfactorily.

Among other questions, the diplomats asked the Anjin management how much revenue they had remitted to the government following complaints by Finance Minister Tendai Biti that the treasury was yet to receive money from the firm since the start of the year.

Director Munyaradzi Machacha disputed Biti's projections that earnings from diamond mining would contribute $600 million to state coffers. Biti's current budget is hinged on finances from Marange. He recently announced most capital projects have been put on hold as Marange failed to deliver.

Machacha said Anjin was yet to break even and recover around $400 million invested by the Chinese into the operation.