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Zimbabwe's finance minister pleads for missing diamond money to fund elections

Zimbabwe's finance minister says he will ask President Robert Mugabe to order diamond mining companies to pay millions of dollars into the nation's treasury.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti told reporters Monday he is "losing patience" with the companies' indifference in helping fund a constitutional referendum March 16 and elections in July.

Biti said at least $217 million is needed for both polls.

He said he had information that total diamond sales for 2012 amounted to $800 million but the state has only received only $45 million.

Diamond mining in eastern Zimbabwe has been mired in allegations of human rights abuses and illegal money laundering by Mugabe's loyalists.

Biti said it was "criminal" that diamond mines and executives failed to submit their profits to the state.