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Thursday, 16 November, 2000, 15:00 GMT
India to check for 'blood diamonds'
Indian jewellery shop
India imports most of its diamonds from London, Antwerp and Israel
The United Nations has urged India to ensure that diamonds from conflict-ridden Sierra Leone do not enter the country.

A team of UN experts is in the Indian capital Delhi and says there are indications that some Indian diamond dealers may be involved in smuggling "blood diamonds".


[India] should check the credentials of importers of expensive diamonds

Harjit Sandhu, Interpol
The term is used to describe diamonds traded to fund arms for guerrilla groups fighting in Africa.

India is one of the world's largest centres for processing and polishing diamonds. The industry employs nearly one million people and generates more than $6.5bn in foreign exchange.

Indirect route

The team met diamond industry representatives who assured them that no diamonds were being imported directly from countries such as Sierra Leone and Angola.

But reports say there are fears that blood diamonds are entering the Indian market indirectly, from trading centres in Antwerp, London and Israel.

Sierra Leone militia
Blood diamonds are used to fund guerrilla groups
"[India] should check the credentials of importers of expensive diamonds," Harjit Sandhu, an Interpol expert on the team, said.

He said the team did not have the resources to check on the involvement of suspected Indian criminals in trading diamonds coming from Sierra Leone.

The UN team has visited some 20 countries since it was set up in August this year.

Checks

It followed a UN Security Council resolution aimed at punishing nations fuelling the civil war by selling or processing illegally obtained diamonds.

One of the team members, M Chungong Ayafur Ayafur, told the BBC they would submit their recommendations to the Security Council by December.

Representatives of India's diamond industry said they had begun implementing their own safeguards.

"We have already made it mandatory for all importers of diamonds to get their suppliers abroad to certify that they are not supplying blood diamonds," Sanjay Kothari, chairman of the Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council told Reuters.

"The diamonds that come from Sierra Leone are more expensive while Indian industry focuses on lower-end and smaller diamonds," he added.

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See also:

18 Jul 00 | Africa
Liberia's diamond links
06 Jun 00 | Africa
Liberia implicated in diamond war
15 May 00 | Africa
Diamonds: A rebel's best friend
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