HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — A world monitoring group on conflict diamonds said Wednesday it wants restrictions on the sale of Zimbabwe diamonds tightened after calls to relax them by diamond companies in Belgium.
Belgium has argued the controls hurt revenue filtering down to ordinary Zimbabweans. But Global Witness insisted in a statement circulated Wednesday the European nation's interests were "closer to home" in its diamond center of Antwerp that promotes diamond gifts around St. Valentine's Day, marked Thursday.
The eastern Zimbabwe fields of Marange, where diamonds are mined, have long been mired in allegations of killings, human rights violations and corruption.
The group warned against what it called "a love triangle" between Belgium, its diamond dealers and Zimbabwe.
"European Union members seeking to promote democracy and stability in Zimbabwe should avoid a menage-a-trois with Belgium and its diamond dealers this Valentine's Day," it said.
It said Belgium is pressing for a European Union embargo on the state Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation, at the forefront of diamond sales, to be lifted immediately.
Global Witness called for the corporation to remain strictly bound by European restrictions and said Anjin, a Chinese joint venture diamond mining company with links to senior Zimbabwean military officials, should be added to the European sanctions list, along with Sam Pa, a powerful Chinese mining magnate accused of involvement in illicit diamond trading.
European Union foreign ministers are scheduled to meet Monday to review the bloc's economic restrictions on Zimbabwe after years of human rights violations and political and economic turmoil. But union officials say any relaxation of the measures will depend on the holding of a credible referendum on a new constitution slated for March or April and parliamentary and presidential elections later in the year.
A coalition between longtime ruler President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai was brokered by regional mediators after violent and disputed elections in 2008.
Last year, Global Witness said illicit diamond revenues had provided off-budget financing to security forces controlled by Mugabe's ZANU-PF party that had a history of violence and intimidation surrounding elections.
The group said Wednesday any easing of curbs on Zimbabwe's diamond industry would likely mean more cash for Mugabe's loyalist police and military just months before 2013 elections.
"The European Union should hold a steady course and restrict trade with diamond mining operations in Marange until free and fair elections have taken place," Global Witness said.