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Tuesday, May 1, 2007

U.N. lifts Liberian diamond ban

Text for Photo Above - Actor Djimon Hounsou stars in the action drama film Blood Diamond, which portrays many of the atrocities in the illegal diamond trade.

Published: 28/04/2007 12:00 AM (UAE)


Liberia: The United Nations has lifted its 2001 ban on Liberia's diamond exports, saying the country has made enough progress in certifying rough diamonds.

The ban was meant to stop the sale of "blood diamonds" or diamonds mined illegally, which has fuelled conflicts in West Africa.

British ambassador to the UN Emyr Jones Parry said the unanimous vote on Friday was “recognition of the progress made in Liberia".

"This government has shown its determination to put in place measures to ensure that the proceeds of diamond sales go for the benefit of Liberia and its people and are not misappropriated," he said.

Exports of rough diamonds from Liberia were banned in 2003 to cut off funds to local rebel groups who illegally traded un-cut diamonds for weapons.

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May 01, 2007
United Nations—The U.N. Security Council on Friday lifted a 6-year-old ban on Liberian diamond exports meant to prevent conflict diamonds from entering the world market.

According to published reports, the 15-nation council voted unanimously to lift the ban. The move was made in "recognition of the progress made by Liberia" in setting up controls on its diamonds, which helped fuel a 14-year civil war that ended in 2003, British Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry said.

The resolution, drafted in the United States, said the country had taken action to meet the minimum demands of the Kimberley Process (KP), which was created to track the flow of rough diamonds across borders to prove they come from legitimate sources.

The decision to lift the ban will be reviewed in 90 days.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who took office last year, has pushed to end the embargo, saying money from diamond sales was necessary to finance reconstruction of the country, Reuters reported. The embargo was lifted two months before the latest extension of the ban was due to end.

"Liberia was ready," U.S. mission spokesman Ben Chang reportedly said. "The time was right."

Nathaniel Barnes, Liberia's U.N. Ambassador, reportedly said the country's application to join the Kimberley Process—filed late March—would be accepted.

He said the decision to lift the ban is important to the people of Liberia, which currently has 85 percent unemployment, with former combatants accounting for many of the jobless. Barnes reportedly said the resumption of diamond exports will help people get back to work.

The United Nations has already lifted a ban on Liberian timber exports, so the only sanctions remaining are a travel ban and assets freeze against certain named individuals, Reuters reports.

In a joint statement, non-governmental organizations Global Witness and Partnership Africa Canada called on members of the KP, the Security Council and the international community to assist the Liberian government in achieving important conflict-diamond-prevention goals and making diamonds a positive force for development.

"The government of Liberia has made good progress in establishing a system of controls to prevent diamonds from fueling conflict," Global Witness said in the statement. "This is a welcome step, but effective implementation and enforcement of the Kimberley Process, including accurate reporting and monitoring of trade and production statistics, will be crucial to ensuring that diamonds never again fuel wars. The government of Liberia must work to ensure that its system of controls is rigorously enforced, and that it takes full control of all diamond-mining areas."

In addition, Partnership Africa Canada said the Security Council and KP members must rigorously monitor Liberia's system of controls to make sure it is enforced.

"Cooperation with other diamond-producing countries of the region will be essential to the effectiveness of the Kimberley Process," the organization stated.

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