Global Policy Forum

Industry Agrees Crackdown


By Katherine Butler

June 29, 2000

Representatives of diamond importing countries who met in London yesterday agreed to a seven-point plan aimed at stamping out the sale of "blood diamonds" which bankroll wars across Africa.

At the first gathering of the diamond industry and government officials, plans for a global certification scheme for rough diamonds were backed, as was a plan to attach warranties to all invoices stating that no "conflict diamonds" are included in any shipment. The proposed crackdown is based on proposals from the British Government, the international diamond giant De Beers and diamond producing governments.

The Foreign Office minister Peter Hain, who hosted the meeting, said: "The problem of illicit diamonds fuelling wars in Africa is an urgent one. Working together we must find solutions, and find them fast. "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."

Sierra Leone's rebel leader Foday Sankoh funded his campaign with illegal diamonds as has Jonas Savimbi, the leader of Angola's Unita rebel group.

Yesterday's summit meeting brought together representatives from India, Israel, Belgium, the United States and Britain. Antwerp in Belgium is the world's largest diamond trading centre. Tel Aviv and Bombay are also major importing centres. Observers from Russia, a major diamond exporter, and Canada, which has opposed the trade in blood diamonds, also attended. Further talks are scheduled for Antwerp next month.

There will be stiff penalties for dealers violating the code and pressure on banks and insurers used by the diamond trade to push for compliance.

In Belgium, the Antwerp-based Diamond High Council announced this week that it had entered into co-operation agreements with Angola and Sierra Leone. On Monday, Indian diamond importers said they would not buy stones from 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, among those taking part in Wednesday's talks, has called for concerted action and insists it has taken every step to ensure its own diamonds are "clean." It stresses that the vast majority of the world's diamonds are untained.

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