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Zimbabwe FM Biti Says Kimberly Process Punishing Ordinary Zimbabweans

Political commentator Charles Mangongera said the MDC formation of FM Biti and Prime Minister Tsvangirai might be tempted to overlook abuses in Marange so as to secure the financial resources to rebuild the economy

Zimbabwean Finance Minister Tendai Biti has issued a statement saying that the Kimberly Process is punishing ordinary Zimbabweans by withholding certification of diamonds from the controversial Marange field.

Dismissing the notion that diamonds from Marange are "blood diamonds," Biti writes in a newsletter of the formation of the Movement for Democratic Change of which he is secretary general that Kimberly must allow Zimbabwe to sell its diamonds, but should be present in the country to resolve issues now barring KP certification.

A recent Kimberly meeting in Israel failed to come to a consensus on certifying diamonds from the Marange field, where the military in control are accused of human rights violations and smuggling of stones.

Biti said that by failing to issue certification, Kimberly is punishing ordinary Zimbabweans, rather than the elite that controls the diamond field, which he says will continue to sell stones illegally, shortchanging citizens.

The minister said however that human rights abuses including alleged forced labor, and smuggling, must be dealt with, and legal claims by London-based African Consolidated Resources over mining rights must be settled.

Harare-based political commentator Charles Mangongera said the MDC formation of Biti and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai may be tempted to overlook abuses in Marange to obtain the resources to rebuild the economy.

In a related development, the Zimbabwean Embassy in Windhoek, Namibia, said Harare might pull out of the Kimberly Process if it is denied permission to sell Marange diamonds.

President Mugabe and Minister of Mines Obert Mpofu have issued much the same threat at various points in the long-running saga, but political analyst Brilliant Mhlanga says such a move would be counter-productive.