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Tuesday, 11 September, 2001, 11:24 GMT 12:24 UK
London hosts 'blood' diamond talks
Blood diamonds have fuelled savage armed conflicts
The UK Government has insisted "enormous progress" has been made in stemming the flow of "blood diamonds" used to finance armed conflicts around the world.

An international conference, hosted by the Foreign Office at Twickenham in London, is aiming to produce a protocol for the certification of diamond exports.

A 39-page, 8,000-word document forms the basis for negotiations between governments and the diamond industry.

I hope there won't be any fudging or any attempt to duck out of the issues and we will get an agreement

Foreign Office Minister Peter Hain
Speaking on BBC Radio 4, Foreign Office Minister Peter Hain said the diamond industry would be "tainted and everybody will be damaged" if there was no agreement on such a scheme.

In the past the UK Government and others have been criticised by pressure groups for being too slow to act against the trade.

It has been estimated that smuggled stones account for about four per cent of the world's estimated total $7.5bn trade.

They have been used to fund conflicts in countries such as Angola, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

'Suspicious' countries

But Mr Hain insisted: "If you compare where we were two years ago ... the industry was against us, the producer countries in South Africa in particular were suspicious that their trade might be injured, and in fact we have made enormous progress."

Concerns about the impact of a certification scheme have been spurred by a slowdown in the demand for diamonds particularly in the US market, which accounts for about 48% of world sales.

But Mr Hain said the conference would aim to reach agreement on a set of minimum standards on diamond exports.

"I hope there won't be any fudging or any attempt to duck out of those issues and we will get an agreement," he added.

See also:

27 Aug 01 | Business
UK diamond policy under attack
10 Aug 01 | Africa
Miners defy ban in Sierra Leone
22 Jun 01 | Americas
US crackdown on 'blood diamonds'
19 Jul 00 | Europe
Traders ban conflict diamonds
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