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Major diamond traders ban Zimbabwe stones

A major diamond trading network has banned its members from dealing in stones from Zimbabwe's Marange fields, where workers have been killed and children enslaved.

Global regulator, the Kimberley Process diamond certification scheme, set up to stop the trade in blood diamonds − stones from conflict zones, last week allowed the sale of 900,000 carats from Zimbabwe's notorious Marange fields.

Human rights campaigners have called for a ban on diamonds from Marange, where Zimbabwe's army is accused of widespread abuses when it moved in to guard the fields after a diamond rush drew up to 30,000 illegal diggers.

US-based Rapaport Diamond Trading Network said yesterday that although the Marange diamonds had the Kimberley Process’s seal of approval, it is barring its members to trade in them, saying their certification by global regulators did not guarantee they were free from human rights atrocities.

"Members found to have knowingly offered Marange diamonds for sale on RapNet will be expelled and their names will be publicly communicated," Rapaport said in a statement.

Human rights groups say soldiers killed 200 people at the Marange diamond fields in the east of the southern African country, raped women and forced children into dangerous work.

Zimbabwe, which denies rights abuses at the Marange fields, says it has built up stocks of nearly four million carats of diamonds since the start of the year. The stockpile is worth about £1billion ($1.7 bn), the state media says.

A power-sharing government formed by President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai last year in a bid to end a decade-long political and economic crisis, is banking on profits from diamond sales to help fix Zimbabwe’s battered economy.

The Kimberley Process temporarily banned diamond exports from Zimbabwe last November after allegations of army atrocities at Marange, in 2008. But last month, it decided that the human rights abuses had stopped and said Zimbabwe could restart limited exports.

"There is no assurance that diamonds with KP certification are free of human rights violations," Rapaport group chairman Martin Rapaport said in a letter to members.

Rapnet calls itself the world's biggest diamond trading network, with members in more than 70 countries and daily online listings of gems worth more than £2.5bn ($4bn).

The Kimberley Process has promised to carry out a review of conditions at Marange will be in September, after which Zimbabwe may be able to resume full exports.

The Kimberley Process was set up in 2002.

Hayley attribution