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Tuesday, 11 July, 2000, 14:55 GMT 15:55 UK
UN panel to probe Angolan diamonds
UNITA fighers
UN digs deeper into Unita's diamond for arms trade
The United Nations Security Council has set up a five-member panel to continue a probe into how Angola's Unita rebels sold diamonds to purchase weapons.

UN officials say that four members - from Britain, Chile, Senegal and Sweden - have already been selected, with the fifth candidate yet to be chosen.

The five-member panel was authorised in April by a Security Council resolution.

The council gave countries accused of violating sanctions against Unita rebels six months to improve their record, or face possible penalties.

This followed a UN report which accused a number of countries of being a conduit for diamonds that helped Unita's war, despite UN arms, fuel and diamond trade embagoes.

Criticised

The report alleged that Presidents Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso and Gnassingbe Eyadema of Togo helped Unita leader Jonas Savimbi with arms and fuel shipments in exchange for diamonds.

Diamond
Financing Unita's war machine
It also accused Belgium of having only lax controls over the Antwerp diamond market - allowing rogue dealers to trade Unita gems with virtually no obstacles.

The Security Council imposed an arms and fuel embargo on Unita in 1993, in an effort to end a 25-year civil war that has killed about 500,000 people in the former Portuguese colony.

But in March this year, UN investigations revealed how Unita imported arms from Bulgaria, using South African weapons brokers, Belgian diamond merchants and African leaders to circumvent the ban.


Military tank
Thousands have been killed in the Angolan war

Most West African states implicated have denied the allegations against them and described the UN report as an affront to Francophone nations.

The panel's first report to the United Nations is expected in October. The Security Council would then consider appropriate action against alleged violators.

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See also:

15 May 00 | Africa
Diamonds: A rebel's best friend
19 May 00 | Africa
Togo expels Unita exiles
05 May 00 | From Our Own Correspondent
Cleaning up the diamond badlands
23 Jan 00 | Africa
Sierra Leone diamond trade halted
03 May 00 | Africa
Angola food trucks ambushed
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