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Tuesday, July 6, 1999 Published at 09:45 GMT 10:45 UK

World: Africa

Sanctions chief targets diamond trade

Angolan rebels: Supplied with cash from diamond sales

By BBC Correspondent Lara Pawson in Luanda

The head of the UN's sanctions committee for Angola, Robert Fowler, is starting a tour of Europe for talks on ways of strengthening sanctions against the Angolan rebel group, Unita.

He is expected to focus on illegal diamond trading by Unita as well as ways to reduce its supplies of arms and petroleum.

His visit to Europe comes less than two months after a tour of seven African states where he began examining the possibility of reducing Unita's strength.

Mr Fowler is expected to meet representatives of De Beers in London before travelling to Antwerp, one of the world's major diamond trading centres.

He is also considering flying on to Kiev to investigate arms trading but in Luanda there is an overriding feeling in the capital that sanctions won't work.

Short of options

Short of ideas on how to bring Angola's warring sides to a position of compromise, the UN has been left with little option but to step up sanctions against Unita.

Prohibiting the rebels' arms and petroleum supplies and its capacity to trade diamonds are among the most important measures.

On Monday, Angola's state radio focused its report on Mr Fowler's most recent announcement; from now on, all diamonds that are up for sale must bear a certificate of origin.

The aim is to hinder sales by Unita, led by Jonas Savimbi.

The UN estimates that since 1992, Unita has amassed between up to $4bn from illegal diamond trading. Most of this money has been ploughed into arms supplies.

As worthy as the UN's quest is, however, many observers in Luanda doubt sanctions will work.

Fake certificates

An executive of one mining company described Angola's diamond industry as anarchical.

In his view, too many people too well versed in smuggling requires the UN to litter the country with observers and the borders with checkpoints.

Other analysts point out that like most things in Angola, for the right fee, certificates of origin are easy to duplicate.

Perhaps a more telling opinion however is that of a Western diplomat here.

Candidly, he argued that every single sanction against Unita is substantiated by the Lusaka protocol to force Savimbi to comply with the agreement. But there is no longer a protocol.

While sanctions may pinch the power of Unita, the thorny issue of negotiations between the two sides will nevertheless remain.

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