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The BBC's Jon Leyne
"There is a danger that dishonest governments could abuse the certification process"
 real 28k

Jayantha Dhanapala, UN Under Secretary General
"We need to make sure everybody in the trade follows their code of ethics"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 28 June, 2000, 19:45 GMT 20:45 UK
'Blood diamonds' crackdown deal
Foday Sankoh, rebel leader in Sierra Leone, and Jonas Savimbi, Unita leader in Angola
Sierra Leone's Foday Sankoh and Angola's Jonas Savimbi, accused of being key players in the illegal diamond trade
A crackdown on the trade in "blood diamonds" which is fuelling vicious African wars is to be pressed further, the UK Government is pledging.

The planned clampdown includes sanctions against rogue dealers and measures to ensure that diamonds are only traded for hard currency from legitimate sources, not arms.


We have to confront the awful truth that without blood diamonds, the war in Sierra Leone could not be financed

Peter Hain
International concern has mounted over the brutal civil war in Sierra Leone, where rebels fighting to keep control of the diamond fields have cut off the limbs of thousands of children and adults.

The pledge to get tough on the rogue trade follows a meeting of the world's main diamond-importing nations in London.

The gathering was significant as, for the first time, it brought together ministers from India and Israel, which, along with Belgium, are the main diamond-importing nations.

Jeweller's shop hopes

Foreign Office Minister Peter Hain said the government would now take the proposals for an international certification scheme to next month's G8 summit in Japan.

"We want to ensure that if somebody goes to buy a diamond from a jeweller's shop, they know that when they put it on the finger of their loved one, they are not pledging a diamond that has cut off the finger of a child in Sierra Leone or Angola," Mr Hain said.

"I don't think that six months ago we could have achieved this.

"People have been appalled by the atrocities in Sierra Leone. We have to confront the awful truth that without blood diamonds, the war in Sierra Leone could not be financed."

The importing countries acknowledge that it will only be possible to produce an effective package of measures if they can secure the co-operation of the diamond trade.

Penalties

The proposals are based on a South African-brokered plan.

"In the face of enormous suffering caused by the diamond-fuelled wars in Sierra Leone, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo, we have a duty to ensure that we are doing as much as we can," said Mr Hain.

The global certification scheme for rough diamonds is the centrepiece of the plan.

Other proposals include greater regulation in diamond trading centres, pressure from banks and insurers which back the diamond trade for compliance with regulation and penalties for those caught trading in diamonds from conflict areas without certificates.

Further talks are due to take place in Antwerp on 20 July, ahead of a full ministerial meeting in South Africa in September.

Agreements

In Belgium, the Antwerp-based Diamond High Council announced on Tuesday that it had entered into co-operation agreements with Angola and Sierra Leone to tighten controls on the export and import of uncut diamonds.

On Monday, Indian diamond-importers said they would not buy stones originating in Africa's conflict zones.

Earlier this month, the Israeli Diamond Exchange said it would ban any member who knowingly traded in "conflict diamonds."

The London-based Central Selling Organisation of the world's largest diamond miner De Beers, insists it has taken every step to ensure its own diamonds are "clean."

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See also:

15 May 00 | Africa
Diamonds: A rebel's best friend
12 Jun 00 | Business
Diamond row scuppers float
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