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12.06.2007 General News

Ghana to be cleared of blood diamond deal

By myjoyonline

An international government organization is planning to clear Ghana of allegations it is illicitly exporting "conflict diamonds" from Ivory Coast, European Union diplomats said Monday.

Officials said Tuesday's report by the 72-nation Kimberley Process — a certification program to prevent the trade of diamonds that fund violent conflict — did not find evidence of systemic smuggling.

Representatives from more than 40 countries will evaluate how well Ghana and other member states are adhering to the group's mandatory regulations at a semiannual meeting which lasts until Thursday.

Despite a December 2005 United Nations ban on so-called "blood diamond" exports from the Ivory Coast, reports in 2006 alleged that Ivorian diamonds were being sold on world markets from Ghana with the official guarantee that the gems came from an area free of conflict.

At a November 2006 meeting, the Kimberley Process nations agreed to help Ghana tighten its internal controls over the diamond trade. The recently-completed review of Ghana's diamond market — which involved photographic analysis of diamonds by experts — did not turn up evidence of systemic violations, the officials said.

The officials asked not to be named because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

Ivory Coast is now the only country subject to UN diamond sanctions after the UN lifted its ban on Liberian diamonds in April. Liberia will attend this week's meeting as a full member of the Kimberley Process for the first time.

Members of the Kimberley Process, which came into effect in 2003 amid uproar about diamond-funded wars in Sierra Leone and Angola, agree only to buy or sell certified diamonds. The group has helped conflict diamonds drop to less than 1 percent of the world's diamond trade, from estimates of 15 percent during the 1990s.

As this year's chair of the Kimberley Process, the European Commission will host the three-day meeting in Brussels. The annual plenary meeting will take place in Brussels from November 5-8.

Credit: AP/IHT