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UN Hearing Set on Illicit Diamonds

Xinhua News Agency
July 25, 2000

The U.N. Security Council committee that monitors sanctions against the Sierra Leonean rebels will hold a public hearing from July 31 to August 1 to probe the link between the illicit sale of diamonds from the West African nation and arms trafficking, a U.N. spokesman said here Tuesday.

The hearing was requested in a July 15 Security Council resolution imposing an embargo on diamond exports from Sierra Leone for at least 18 months unless the gems are sold under a government certification system.

Representatives of interested states and regional organizations, as well as of the diamond industry, will be invited to take part in the hearing.

Interested states listed by the U.N. spokesman, in addition to Sierra Leone, include all other members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) as well as Angola, Belgium, India, Israel, Liberia and South Africa. Sierra Leone is an ECOWAS member.

An extensive U.N. investigation earlier this year found that Angola's rebel National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) raised millions of dollars through the sale of illicit diamonds to buy weapons and other war materials.

Belgium, India and Israel are important diamond-cutting centers while South Africa is a major diamond producer. The chairman of the Sierra Leone sanctions committee is Anwarul Chowdhury, the permanent representative of Bangladesh to the United Nations.

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