Zim takes diamond sanction fight to US

HARARE - Zimbabwe will lobby for the lifting of US sanctions on its diamond exports at a meeting in Washington next week, a government official said, arguing that its stones are no longer a threat to the country’s stability.

The US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (Ofac) slapped an embargo on the southern African nation’s diamonds in 2008 to prevent their sale from fuelling conflict, which began with diamond discoveries in Marange in 2006.

Zimbabwe was in November last year given the green light to export diamonds from its Marange fields by the industry’s top certification system, Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KP), but the country remains under a US export ban of gems under Ofac.

“We want the (US) diamond embargo lifted. We have over-complied with the KP minimum conditions,” Obert Mpofu, the minister of Mines heading the lobbying effort, said.

He claimed civil society groups were campaigning for the US to keep the sanctions, an allegation angrily rejected by the NGO leaders.

The US sanctions are on Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC), which was put under the embargo pursuant to Executive Order 13469.

A Zimbabwean delegation plans to submit a demand for US sanctions removal on its diamond sector during a four-day KP meeting that begins in Washington on Tuesday.

Talks are also under way with several international diamond firms to establish marketing partnerships.

The Washington meeting will be attended by US assistant secretary of state for economic and business affairs José W Fernandez, KP vice chair Susan Shabangu, who is also South Africa’s minister of mineral resources, KP chair Gillian Milovanovic; president of the World Diamond Council Eli Izhakoff and civil society coalition representatives.

Zimbabwe will make its case at the Working Group Monitoring session on Wednesday — day two of the conference. - Gift Phiri, Political Editor

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