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EU Looks to Further Tighten Blood-Diamond Trade

The European Union is hosting a meeting this week to assess the progress in eradicating conflict diamonds - illicitly traded diamonds that have fueled a number of wars across Africa. From Paris, Lisa Bryant reports that despite strides, conflict diamond experts say more needs to be done.

The Brussels diamond meeting marks five years since the start of the Kimberly Process - a global watchdog group that includes the European Union and aims to stop the flow of so-called conflict or blood diamonds.

European External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner hailed the progress made since the start of Kimberly in 2002. She said diamonds are no longer a rebel's best friend - referring to warlords who have used the jewels to fuel conflicts in such African countries as Angola, Congo, Sierra Leone, and LIberia. And the diamond industry, which has been accused of being opaque, revealed its production figures this year for the first time.

But despite strides in countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, Annie Dunnebacke, a campaigner for the London-based watchdog Global Witness says more needs to be done.

"In many countries, especially in many African countries, we are seeing an increase in official diamond exports and that is a very good sign," said Dunnebacke.

"Unfortunately, on a global scale, we are also seeing an increase in illicit flows of rough diamonds that are being trading outside the Kimberly process. So we are really hoping that this week, the K.P. [Kimberly Process] with the E.C. [European Commission] chair addresses these weaknesses. But also that India - which is the incoming chair - continues to address them effectively next year," she added.

During the Brussels meeting that ends Thursday, participants will try to strengthen existing controls against the flow of illicit diamonds. The 27-member European Union is a Kimberly Process member - and 80 percent of rough diamonds end up in the Belgium city of Antwerp, where they are finished.

Belgian media reported last weekend that police had seized $20 million worth of diamonds believed to have come from Ivory Coast, which has been torn by conflict in recent years. The country faces an international embargo against exporting diamonds.