ZIM WANTS GEM SALE

HARARE - Zimbabwe finance minister Tendai Biti yesterday urged the diamond watchdog Kimberley Process to clear the country to sell its diamonds. He said the government desperately needed the income.

HARARE - Zimbabwe finance minister Tendai Biti yesterday urged the diamond watchdog Kimberley Process to clear the country to sell its diamonds. He said the government desperately needed the income.

Kimberley Process (KP) blocked Zimbabwe's international sales after documenting gross military abuses against civilians in the eastern Marange diamond fields, including forced labour and beatings of workers.

A monitor evaluating the situation has given his all-clear, but rights groups say abuses are continuing and a senior activist in Marange has been arrested.

"The KP must allow us to sell our diamonds, but must then come to Zimbabwe to help resolve these issues," Biti said in a newsletter published by the prime minister's office.

"It will be very unfortunate if they do not allow us to sell the diamonds because they will be punishing the people of Zimbabwe. We can't pay for electricity, we can't pay for civil servants and yet we are sitting on one of the finest finds of alluvial diamonds in the history of mankind."

He said ordinary people were paying the price for the stalemate between Zimbabwe's government and KP. - Sapa-AFP

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