UN starts hearings on war diamonds

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The Independent US

The UN opened two days of hearings yesterday on the role precious gems have had in fuelling nine years of civil war in Sierra Leone.

The UN opened two days of hearings yesterday on the role precious gems have had in fuelling nine years of civil war in Sierra Leone.

Attending the meeting at UN headquarters were representatives of the diamond industry, which has pledged to shut down the flow of diamonds originating in the former British colony. Most of the stones are believed to passthrough neighbouring Liberia.

Also asked to testify were representatives of human rights and environmental groups that have been making their own assessments of the cash that rough diamonds have been generating for the Revolutionary United Front.

Among those groups was Global Witness, a British-based organisation that monitors human rights around the world. It calculates that the rebels, led by the now imprisoned Foday Sankoh, earned $200m (£133m) a year for the stones, which are mostly mined in areas of the country under RUF control.

A Security Council resolution passed last month imposed an 18-month worldwide ban on trade in diamonds from the West African state. The resolution was primarily drafted by Britain, which had hoped the sanctions would be open-ended.

The hearings are being chaired by Anwarul Karim Chowdhury, the Bangladeshi ambassador, who is the head of the council's Sierra Leone sanctions committee.

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