Talks over Zim diamonds deadlock
Tel Aviv - Talks between members of the Kimberley Process diamond certification scheme were deadlocked on Thursday over whether to allow Zimbabwe to resume trade in gems from its controversial Marange fields.
Delegates at a KP conference in Tel Aviv failed during an all-night session to reach consensus over whether to return certification of the fields, which was withdrawn in November over claims of brutal abuse of workers by the army.
Discussions were expected to resume later on Thursday, the Israeli Diamond Industry said in a statement.
A report by KP investigator Abbey Chikane, which was presented at the conference, argued that President Robert Mugabe's government had met the global diamond regulator's criteria in the Marange diamond fields.
"While the majority of countries participating in the Kimberley Process expressed support for Chikane's submission, a number of countries and civil society participants objected to the concept that Zimbabwe would immediately commence exporting diamonds from Marange," the statement said.
Human rights groups have called for Zimbabwe to be suspended from the Kimberley Process, saying it reneged on a promise made last year to improve conditions at its Marange fields. Such a move would bar the country's exports of the gems.
Accreditation of Marange's production was suspended in November after Kimberley investigators documented forced labour, beatings and other abuses by the military against civilians working in the diamond fields.
Human Rights Watch claims soldiers in Marange are engaging in forced labour, torture, beatings, and harassment and that workers, some as young as 11, are forced to hand their finds to military guards, who then sell them on the black market.
Several rights groups say members of Mugabe's ZANU-PF party are implicated in syphoning off the country's diamond revenues.
The Kimberley Process is a joint initiative by governments, industry and civil society to stem the flow of "blood diamonds" - rough diamonds used by rebel movements to finance wars against legitimate governments.