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UN Says Ivorian Rebels Smuggle Diamonds Through Ghana


The government of Ghana said it is investigating activities of all licensed diamond dealers in the country. The investigation started as a result of a U.N. report that says conflict diamonds are being smuggled into its export market from rebel-held northern Ivory Coast.

A U.N. report, expected to be submitted this week to the U.N. Security Council, says Ivorian diamonds are being exported from Ghana onto the international market, in breach of a U.N. ban imposed last December.

The government of Ghana says the U.N. report is inaccurate. Government officials say all diamond parcels that leave the shores of Ghana are pre-inspected to ensure they do not contain conflict diamonds.

Despite the denial, Mines Minister Dominic Fobih said officials, companies, and individuals found to have violated approved procedures on diamond production, buying or export would be punished.

The minister also said the government was surprised the report is being circulated without a copy being made available to Ghana, which is a non-permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and a signatory to the World Diamond Council.

The head of the government's Precious Minerals Company Limited, Aristotle Kotey, also complained that Ghana did not get a full copy of the report.

"Since Ghana has not officially received the copy of the report prepared by the U.N. panel of experts on Ivory Coast, we cannot therefore be expected to give any detailed official response to the allegations circulated in the print and the electronic media, and e-mails from the World Diamond Council and some NGOs," he said.

Ghana faces a possible ban on its rough diamond exports when the security council discusses so-called blood diamonds this week. Blood diamonds, also known as conflict diamonds, are diamonds mined in war zones that are then sold, usually clandestinely, to finance the war.

One of the issues that became a red flag to the United Nations in investigating Ghana was the country's diamond export levels increased by 210 percent between 2000 and 2005.

Aristotle Kotey explains the boost in diamond exports.

"Diamond exports from Ghana increased from 2000, when the Ivory Coast war had not even started. From 2004 to late 2005, prices of smaller diamonds commonly found in Ghana, rose as a result of high demand and non-availability of such stones in the diamond trading companies global production," he said.

Ghana said it is still committed to the Kimberley Process, an international initiative started in 2002 to prevent the sale of "conflict diamonds" used to fund wars in Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone and Liberia.

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