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British NGO blames industry for failing to stop 'blood diamonds'

Agence France Presse

June 5, 2006

The diamond industry has promised much but done little to end the illegal trade in so-called blood diamonds, which fund wars in Africa, the British non-governmental organisation Global Witness said Monday.

"The diamond industry is paying little more than lip-service to the system of self-regulation, launched three years ago, which is intended to help stop diamonds from funding civil wars," a Global Witness report said.

Elements of the diamond industry "continue to trade in conflict and illicit diamonds, while the rest of the industry turns a blind eye," it said.

In January 2003, the diamond industry adopted a certification system known as the Kimberley Process to prevent diamonds being used to fund conflict. The system is backed by the United Nations and brings together countries keen to end the trade in diamonds used to bankroll wars, mainly in Africa.

The industry committed to respecting a code of conduct and to following a system of controls.

But Global Witness said the industry had failed to keep its promises in the fight against the illegal trade.

"Profits from this trade have been used by warlords and rebel groups in Africa to fund devastating wars, while Al-Qaeda and organised crime groups have also used diamonds for money-laundering and other illicit purposes," it said.

Despite this, Global Witness said, the diamond industry is much more concerned about the bad publicity that could stem from a film set to be released later this year, "Blood Diamond", starring Leonardo Di Caprio as a diamond smuggler.

The organisation has called on the industry to take steps to ensure the system of self-regulation is applied properly. It also advised international organisations to put in place independent checks of the system.

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