Zimbabwe halts disputed diamond sale

The auction of diamonds has been stopped, but no sales were made," said Augustine Rukwaya, CEO of Mbada Diamonds, one of the two companies running the Marange fields in eastern Zimbabwe.

"There are some issues within various inter-government departments which had to be addressed," he told AFP.

"Buying diamonds is a very complex process. We will be issuing a full statement later in the day."

In November, Zimbabwe escaped a ban on its international diamond sales by the Kimberley Process, a scheme that aims to prevent "blood diamonds" from entering the mainstream market.

A Kimberley investigation found "unacceptable and horrific violence against civilians by authorities", including forced labour, torture and beatings by soldiers against villagers.

Despite calls for Zimbabwe’s suspension over abuses in Marange, the global body gave Harare a June 2010 deadline to make reforms to comply with its regulations.

Zimbabwe went into partnership with two South African-owned firms, including Mbada, to extract diamonds in October.

The following month, Mines Minister Obert Mpofu said that soldiers and police had withdrawn from the fields and that Zimbabwe had complied with more than 90% of the reforms set by Kimberley.