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France Calls for UN Body to

Agence France Presse
July 12, 2000

France called Wednesday for the United Nations to set up a group of independent experts to monitor the illegal trade in diamonds and other raw materials used to fund conflicts.

The permament group, appointed by the UN secretary general, would be charged with making case-by-case rulings on whether the transactions were illegally financing armed conflicts, said Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine. Such a plan could avoid the inefficiencies often involved in systematic and routine sanctions as now allowed under the UN Security Council resolution 1306, he said.

The UN resolution bans trade in Sierra Leone diamonds until a reliable system for certifying their origin has been established. Diamond smuggling plays a key role in financing several African conflicts in Sierra Leone as well as the Congo and Angola, Vedrine told a Group of Eight foreign ministers' meeting. The foreign ministers, meeting in the southern city of Miyazaki to lay the groundwork for a July 21-23 G8 leaders' summit in Okinawa island, were seeking measures to prevent armed conflicts.

France wanted the economic sources of such trouble to be attacked, going "beyond good intentions and without relying on generalizations," Vedrine told reporters after the session. The fight against diamond smuggling, which will require a change in the behaviour of rich consuming nations, would be just one measure aimed at removing the fuel from armed conflagrations. It also would involve grappling with expatriates who encourage conflicts in their homelands by cracking down on the "movements of funds by which they make a decisive contribution to the war effort," said Vedrine, giving Eritrea as an example.

The Financial Action Task Force should also intensify the fight against laundering of drug money, a much bigger source of war funds, as in the case of Colombia's guerrillas. But Colombia is also an example of how the problem can be tackled, with European Union funds being used to encourage farmers to switch to legal production of crops. Vedrine stressed the dilemma faced by humanitarian organisations, confronted by warlords confiscating a slice of their aid.

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