Industry hits back on 'conflict diamonds'

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The diamond industry yesterday dismissed a report from a pressure group that had branded a system to rid the business of stones sourced from conflict zones a "public relations manoeuvre".

Global Witness, a non-governmental organisation, marked a meeting in Dubai of the World Diamond Council yesterday by publishing a highly critical study of the diamond industry's implementation of an agreement to stop trade in "conflict diamonds".

The pressure group said a system of self-regulation for the diamond business was not working and that it was not complying with an agreement known as the Kimberley Process. It said the governments that signed up to the Kimberley Process, put in force last year, must "take immediate action to directly regulate the diamond industry's compliance".

But this was rejected by the WDC, other industry organisations and companies such as De Beers, the leading diamond miner. Matthew Runci, an executive director of the WDC and chief executive of Jewellers of America, insisted the industry had reformed.

"Consumers can be sure that when they enter a responsible store they are buying non-conflict diamonds," Mr Runci, speaking in Dubai, said.

The trade in illicit diamonds financed some of Africa's bloodiest civil wars, especially in Sierra Leone, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo. In an attempt to end this, some 50 countries, including the UK and the US, signed up to the Kimberley Process.

As well as requiring the governments of the countries to check that all diamonds entering their borders are certified not to come from conflict zones, the industry agreed to regulate itself to stamp out trade in such stones.

According to Global Witness, which surveyed jewellery sellers in the US, sales staff in shops were unaware of the requirements of the Kimberley Process.

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