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UN Lifts Liberia Diamond Embargo


The U.N. Security Council has lifted its embargo on Liberia's diamond exports. From U.N. headquarters, VOA's Peter Heinlein reports the action clears the way for creation of thousands of new jobs as it means Liberia's lucrative diamond industry can now resume.

The U.S. sponsored resolution unanimously approved Friday applauds Liberia's work in setting up controls on its diamonds. The measure says Liberia has made enough progress to meet the requirements of the Kimberly Process, which calls on member governments to certify the legitimate origins of rough diamonds.

The Council ordered the so-called "blood diamond" embargo in 2001, at a time when the government of then-president Charles Taylor was accused of using the using revenue from Liberia's diamond sales to fuel civil wars. Taylor is currently awaiting trial before a special Sierra Leone war crimes tribunal at The Hague.

After Friday's Security Council vote, Council President and British U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones-Parry called lifting the sanctions a reflection of international confidence in the government of Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.

"That's a recognition of the progress made in Liberia, the fact that the conditions imposed in the Kimberly Process are being met, and our expectation is that Liberia would now move forward and fully join the Kimberly Process," said Jones-Parry.

Liberia's U.N. ambassador, Milton Barnes, says the Security Council action coincides with word that the country has been officially readmitted to the Kimberly Process. That clears the way for creation of thousands of new jobs for Liberians, many of whom had been unemployed since the end of Liberia's 14-year civil war.

"This is a positive thing. The unemployment rate in Liberia right now is 85 percent. And a good portion of that number are ex-combatants. This is an industry that is very labor-intensive," said Barnes. "Once we have gotten through this process and begin to get the kind of investment that we are looking for, it will be a major source that will allow us to put young people to work."

Last month, the Security Council extended the mandate of the U.N. peacekeeping operation in Liberia for six months, but asked Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to submit plans for closing it down. The secretary-general's report is due in June. The 17,000-strong Liberia mission has been responsible for security in the West African nation since the civil war ended in 2003.

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