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Friday, 22 March, 2002, 14:27 GMT
Sierra Leone in diamond struggle
Diamond miners in Sierra Leone
Diamonds can be found 'almost everywhere'
Sierra Leone has virtually no control over the illicit mining of diamonds in its country, according to the country's finance minister, despite international efforts to clamp down on so-called conflict or 'blood' diamonds.

"We can't control it, they're mined everywhere," Sierra Leone's finance minister Peter Kuyembeh told the BBC's World Business Report.

We should put our minds on certain other areas of the developing the economy of Sierra Leone economy rather than relying on diamonds

Peter Kuyembeh
Sierra Leone's finance minister
"I sometimes find myself defeated when I want to find an answer to the diamond problem."

The admission came as an international conference in Canada to establish controls over the diamonds trade again failed to reach an agreement.

The three-day meeting was part of the Kimberley Process set up two years ago to end the trade in diamonds in war-torn countries like Angola and Sierra Leone, where rebel forces use the proceeds to buy weapons.

Rough cut industry

"Whereas four stones appear on the market, 25 stones have already escaped and there are hundreds of ways of doing this," said Mr Kuyembeh.

Sierra Leone's finance minister Peter Kuyembeh
Kuyembeh wants to develop other parts of the economy
"Now that rebels have left some areas, the government is reforming the areas and putting a stop to some of the mining until we know what to do."

Mr Kuyembeh has just secured promises from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to forgive almost $1bn, or 80%, of its debt in exchange for free-market restructuring of the economy.

"We should put our minds on certain other areas of the developing the economy of Sierra Leone economy rather than relying on diamonds," he said.

Diamond deal

Under the Kimberley Process, diamonds that are not certified as originating from designated mines will be barred from being traded internationally.

Abbey Chikane, chairman of the Kimberley Process and South Africa's powerful Diamond Board, said the Canadian talks had produced "a breakthrough" in many areas, despite having failed to reach an overall agreement.

He added he was confident agreement could be reached this November at a ministerial meeting in Switzerland.

It is estimated that conflict diamonds make up about 3% of the $7bn annual global diamond trade.

Some countries are unhappy with the controls, which would allow regular outside monitoring of their diamond industries.

But activists say is the only way of ensuring the trade in conflict diamonds is ended.

The US, Canada and other countries have proposed legislation that will halt the import of illicit diamonds from countries that have not taken effective measures to stop the trade.

Sierra Leone's finance minister Peter Kuyembeh
"We can't control it, they're mined everywhere."
See also:

13 Mar 02 | Africa
IMF unblocks aid for Sierra Leone
09 Feb 02 | Africa
Britain's future in Sierra Leone
28 Apr 01 | Business
Africa pushes for more IMF reforms
25 Feb 02 | Country profiles
Country profile: Sierra Leone
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