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Soldiers to leave diamond fields

ZIMBABWE has pledged to remove its troops from diamond fields in the east, an official newspaper said yesterday - a week after a rights group alleged the military was committing killings and abuses in the area.

The Ministry of Mines has denied last month's report by Human Rights Watch that said soldiers had killed more than 200 people at the Marange diamond fields while forcing children to search for diamonds and beating villagers who got in the way.

The coalition government said the military was there to secure the area, about 250 kilometers east of Harare, while the mining is managed by the state's Mining Development Corp.

But Mines Minister Obert Mpofu on Saturday told inspectors from the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme - the world's diamond control body - that troops would be withdrawn from the diamond fields and the country would meet international mining standards, according to the Sunday Mail.

"We are going to work toward getting in line with the standards proposed," the paper quoted Mpofu as saying during a meeting with the Kimberly delegation.

Deputy Mines Minister Murisi Zwizwai - a member of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's former opposition party - said the coalition government had "agreed to remove the soldiers, but it will be done in phases while proper security settings would be put in place," Zwizwai was quoted by the Sunday Mail as saying.


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