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UN Sets Up Panel on Angola Diamond Probe

Xinhua General News
July 13, 2000

The United Nations has formally selected experts from Britain, Chile, Senegal, Sweden and Zimbabwe to continue a probe into how the Angolan rebel armed group -- the National Union for the Total Independence of Angola ( UNITA) -- sold diamonds to finance warfare in the southern African country.

The selection was announced Thursday by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in his letter to the president of the Security Council. The panel, headed by Christine Gordon of Britain who is a consultant and writer on Angola's diamond industry, will work for a period of six months to investigate into the UNITA violation of the relevant U.N. resolutions, which imposed sanctions against it.

Serving on the new panel are Juan Larrain of Chile, a former history professor and his country's deputy representative to the United Nations, James Manzou of Zimbabwe, Ismail Sekh of Senegal, an African regional coordinator for INTERPOL, the international criminal police organization, and Lena Sundh from Sweden, a director in her country's foreign ministry and a former ambassador to Angola.

The Security Council has asked Annan to establish a " monitoring mechanism" of up to five experts to collect additional information and report by October 18. A month later, the Council is expected to decide whether to take action against violators, some named in the March report.

The Security Council in 1993 imposed an arms and fuel embargo on UNITA in an effort to end a 25-year-long civil war in the former Portuguese colony that has killed some 500,000 people.

In March, a ground-breaking U.N. report by an independent panel revealed how UNITA imported arms from Bulgaria, using South African weapons brokers, Belgian diamond merchants, and African leaders, bribed with diamonds, to circumvent the bans. The "name and shame" report, commissioned by the Canadian permanent representative to the United Nations, Robert Fowler, had recommended arms embargoes and diplomatic isolation against nations intentionally breaking its sanctions. But several Council members were opposed. The report accused the presidents of Burkina Faso and Togo, and the later Zairian dictator Mobuto Sese Seko of receiving diamonds for helping UNITA with arms and fuel shipments. Rwanda was also accused of facilitating guns-for-gems deals.

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