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Wednesday, 5 July, 2000, 21:11 GMT 22:11 UK
UN diamond embargo expected
RUF rebels
Diamond smuggling is believed to buy the RUF their weapons
By Mark Devenport in New York

The United Nations Security Council is due to vote to impose a diamond embargo on Sierra Leone.

The intention is to crack down on the illegal trade in diamonds, which has funded the campaign of the Revolutionary United Front rebels in the East of Sierra Leone.

Diplomats believe the illegal export of rough diamonds has been the principal source of revenue for the RUF rebels who broke their ceasefire in May, killing and abducting UN peacekeepers.

The rebels export many of their diamonds through Sierra Leone's neighbours such as Liberia.

Liberia

In recent years, Liberia has been selling around six times as many diamonds on the international market as it is believed to be able to produce within it's own borders.

With the UN force in Sierra Leone still battling the rebels on the ground, the new embargo would prohibit the export of all rough diamonds except those certified under a new scheme by the government in Freetown.

The embargo will be policed by a Security Council committee, which is due to hold a hearing on the link between diamonds and the Sierra Leone conflict before the end of this month.

Time scale

The hearing is expected to be attended by representatives of the international diamond industry.

The latest draft of the resolution states that the embargo should be in place for an initial period of 18 months.

The precise time scale, however, is still under debate amongst Security Council members.

The measure, when passed, will be the second diamond embargo of its kind.

The UN already has similar sanctions in force, related to diamonds produced in areas controlled by the Angolan rebel group UNITA.

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See also:

28 Jun 00 | Business
'Blood diamonds' crackdown deal
15 May 00 | Africa
Diamonds: A rebel's best friend
12 Jun 00 | Business
Diamond row scuppers float
14 Jun 00 | Africa
Liberia: Where rebels roam free
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