Deal allows limited diamond exports

Associated Press / July 17, 2010

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PARIS — A global body created to curb trade in diamonds that finance conflict has agreed to allow Zimbabwe to export limited numbers of stones from fields where the military has been accused of violent human rights abuses and smuggling, representatives of the diamond industry and advocacy groups said yesterday.

The agreement emerged Thursday at meetings in St. Petersburg involving the World Diamond Council, an industry body, and a UN-backed group called the Kimberley Process, set up by countries, diamond industry representatives, and advocacy groups to counter sales of so-called blood diamonds.

Reports of human rights abuses and violence in the Marange diamond fields of eastern Zimbabwe have provided a critical test of whether the Kimberley Process can realize its aspirations of preventing illicit profits from fueling conflicts and abuse.

The deal provides for Zimbabwe to export two batches of rough diamonds before Sept. 6 under the supervision of monitors from the Kimberley Process.

The amount Zimbabwe is likely to earn from the sales was not immediately made known. According to news reports, the Mines Ministry in Harare has estimated the value of its stockpile to be as high as $1.7 billion, but there was no indication that the entire stockpile would be exported under the agreement.

The area is so rich in deposits that it could help catapult the nation into the ranks of the world’s top diamond producers, according to an expert for the Kimberley Process.

The agreement was intended in part to head off Zimbabwean threats to export millions of carats of newly mined diamonds on its own, without the international group’s seal of approval. Diamond traders had said they were worried that large-scale sales of uncertified Zimbabwean diamonds could destabilize the global trade.

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