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Thursday, 10 August, 2000, 09:26 GMT 10:26 UK
Leone 'approved' diamonds move closer

Sierra Leone diamonds are exported by rebels via neighbouring countries
The UN Security Council has given the go-ahead for Sierra Leone to start certifying its diamonds, paving the way for approved exports that will not fund the civil war there.

During a hearing last week, Sierra Leone proposed a new diamond mining and export regime, including the numbering of the certificates of origin on forgery-proof paper.

In July, the Security Council banned the purchase of Sierra Leone diamonds without government certification, in a bid to stop the rebel Revolutionary United Front using so-called blood diamonds to finance their nine-year war against the government.

Over the last two years, the value of official annual diamond exports by Sierra Leone has dropped sharply. But in the same period, diamond exports by neighbouring Liberia - a country which possesses relatively few diamond fields - has risen dramatically to $300m.

The British Government has condemned Liberia for smuggling Sierra Leonean diamonds out of the rebel held areas and using the proceeds to supply the rebels with arms.

Welcome

The chair of the sanctions committee, Bangladesh's UN Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury has welcomed the scheme.

"It will really bring in hopefully some legitimate earnings into the coffers of the Sierra Leone Government, which hopefully will be used for the well-being of the people."

"They are short of cash. They need money. This country is so rich, with such an important mineral, but it is just being drained out of them without common people getting any benefit," he said.

The rebels are estimated to control about 90% of Sierra Leone's diamond mining areas.

The International Diamond Manufacturers' Association has agreed to implement a system of certification, which would provide documentation showing where a diamond has been mined.

Under the proposal uncut gems could only be exported in sealed packages containing a certificate of origin.

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See also:

18 Jul 00 | Africa
Liberia's diamond links
18 Jul 00 | Business
Controls on conflict diamonds
15 May 00 | Africa
Diamonds: A rebel's best friend
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