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Ghana Denies Violating Ban on Ivory Coast Diamonds

Ghana is denying a United Nations report saying that conflict diamonds from rebel-controlled areas of Ivory Coast are being smuggled into the West African nation. The report, expected to be submitted to the U.N. Security Council this week, says the authorities in Ghana have failed to stop diamonds from neighboring Ivory Coast from entering the country's export chains.

The U.N. report says Ivorian diamonds are still being sold on the international market, in breach of a U.N. ban imposed almost a year ago.

According to the report, diamonds from rebel-held towns in the Ivory Coast are being smuggled into Ghana for export, which is illegal under the U.N.- imposed ban.

The U.N. Security Council imposed the diamond embargo on Ivory Coast in a bid to keep the rebel-held north from profiting from the gems.

Ghana, a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, faces a possible ban on its rough diamond exports when the council discusses so-called blood diamonds later this week. Blood diamonds, also known as conflict diamonds, are diamonds mined in war zones that are then sold, usually clandestinely, to finance the fighting.

Ghana is also subject 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.

Aristotle Kotey, the managing director of Precious Minerals Company Limited, the government agency in Ghana that supervises trade in diamonds and gold, says the U.N. report is wrong.

"It is inaccurate to say that conflict diamonds are being exported through Ghana. We pre-inspect all the parcels that are shipped out of Ghana, and we are sure that they do not contain conflict diamonds," he said.

Between 2000 and 2005, Ghana's diamond export levels increased by 210 percent.

Susie Sanders, a campaigner for Global Witness in London, an international association that focuses on the links between the exploitation of natural resources and the funding of conflict and corruption, says her organization and others that want to end the sales of blood diamonds are asking that restrictions on diamond smuggling get tighter.

"So we are [demanding] for the Kimberley Process to become much stronger to make sure, countries like Ghana that neighbors Cote D'Ivoire, and has been accused of certifying conflict diamonds from Ivory Coast and exporting them, to make sure that those countries' governments have stronger control systems in place, to make sure that they aren't exporting neighboring countries' conflict diamonds," she noted.

In Ghana itself, organizations are calling on the government to take action so that the country is no longer accused of trading in blood diamonds.

Though the official of Ghana's Precious Minerals Company has commented on the U.N. report, the country's ministries of foreign affairs and mines have yet to say anything about it.