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EU Proposes Plan to Crack Down on 'Blood Diamonds' From Africa

The European Union is proposing a plan to stop the flow into Europe of so-called blood diamonds, which have been blamed for fueling wars in Africa. The European Commission, the EU executive body, wants EU law to include rules requiring certificates of origin for all rough, or uncut, diamonds.

The proposed regulation needs to be approved by the 15 EU member states before it goes into effect, probably by the beginning of next year. The idea behind the EU plan is to make sure the diamonds entering Europe do not originate in mines controlled by rebel groups, who use profits from the sales of the gems to fund their military campaigns.

The European Union is proposing to go beyond the so-called Kimberley process, an international policing system agreed to two years ago by governments representing diamond producers, traders, and processors. That plan is to be launched in November, although EU officials say some African countries have taken little concrete action to implement it. The EU hopes its plan will spur signatories to the Kimberley process to comply with the agreement.

Blood diamonds are estimated to make up about four percent of the $7 billion-a-year market in rough stones. But they have played an important part in prolonging conflicts in such places as Angola and Sierra Leone, and they have threatened to destroy the reputation of the entire industry.

European Commission official Thon De Vries said the European Union is confident the worldwide diamond industry will comply with the rules. "The interesting aspect of the Kimberley process has been, and is still, that industry, NGOs (non-government organizations), and governments are working together in the same direction. They might have different motivations and objectives, but the industry certainly is fully willing to comply with controls at the internal market, at the external border. Of course, there might always be companies or persons that try to beat the system," he said.

But Mr. De Vries said traders will be allowed to sell their diamonds in Europe only if they have a certificate stating where the stones were extracted.

Under the present system, diamonds imported into the European Union are accompanied at best by a document showing where the gems were last exported from. Blood diamond smugglers get around this system by passing the stones through at least one other country before exporting them to Europe.

Under the EU plan, said Mr. De Vries, diamonds coming from conflict zones, or without a certificate, will be refused entry or confiscated.