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US says no agreement on Zimbabwe diamonds

WASHINGTON, Jun 29 – Washington is "disappointed" that an international body failed last week to reach consensus on allowing Zimbabwe to resume trade in gems from its controversial Marange fields, a US spokesman said Monday.

Members of the so-called Kimberley Process diamond certification scheme at a conference in Israel last week were unable to agree on resuming certification of the Marange fields, which was withdrawn in November over claims of brutal abuse of workers by the army.

"The US was disappointed that consensus was not reached concerning the administrative decision in Zimbabwe at the meeting in Tel Aviv," State Department spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters.

The Kimberley Process joins government, industry and civil officials from numerous countries to stem the flow of African diamonds, imposing strict standards on its members to enable them to certify shipments of rough diamonds as being "conflict-free."

Conflict diamonds have been used by rebel movements to finance wars against legitimate governments and which have fueled decades of conflict in Angola, Cote d\’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Sierra Leone.

Crowley said Monday that the problems at Zimbabwe\’s Marange fields have yet to be resolved, and that "further progress" still is needed.

"We\’re looking for Zimbabwe to make further progress implementing the necessary steps to bring the Marange diamond fields into compliance with the Kimberly Process minimum requirements," the spokesman said.

"We strongly oppose any attempts to export Marange diamonds before consensus is reached," Crowley said.

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"It\’s important that Zimbabwe address the ongoing diamond smuggling and human rights violation in and around Marange diamond fields."

As of December 2009, the Kimberley Process had 49 members, representing 75 countries.

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