Zimbabwe accuses US of diamond blackmail

Harare, Zimbabwe (PANA) - Zimbabwe, a rising world diamond producer, Monday accused the US of trying to undermine the country's gem industry by blocking global markets on grounds of alleged human rights abuses.

The two countries have been in a political stand-off for decades, with Washington accusing President Robert Mugabe's government of suppressing democracy and undermining human rights.

The US has led global efforts to ban Zimbabwe's diamonds from international markets, alleging soldiers guarding newly discovered fields in the east of the country were killing civilians.

Diamond trade is tightly regulated after proceeds from gems were used in the 1990s by rebel groups in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Angola and DR Congo to finance deadly insurrections.

Washington has pushed for Zimbabwe's gems to be classified as conflict diamonds, and thus be banned, attempts Harare says were motivated by political considerations.

Speaking ahead of a key meeting this week in Washington of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), the diamond industry regulator, Zimbabwe's Mines Minister Obert Mpofu said the southern African country would mobilise other African and Third World producers to resist the US' attempts to include human rights in the global diamond trade regime.

Washington is seeking to broaden the definition of 'conflict diamonds' at the meeting to include human rights violation, an attempt Zimbabwe sees as a threat to its gem industry.

"They want to bring, for instance, so-called human rights issues that are totally alien to the objectives of the KPCS. Those will be resisted," Mpofu said.

He said Zimbabwe, which generally enjoys the support of the majority of African diamond producers in its quarrel  with Washington, was confident of retaining the support, and overturning US attempts to broaden the definition of conflict diamonds at the meeting.

The southern African country has recently discovered what it described as some of the largest diamond reserves in the world, with the government insisting these would be exclusively exploited by state companies.

Barring foreign companies from the reserves is widely seen to be behind Washington's push for Zimbabwe's gems to be banned on international markets.
-0- PANA RS/SEG 4June2012

04 june 2012 13:11:17

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