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Ghana Says It's on Alert for Conflict Diamonds

An international group that is trying to end the trade in conflict, or blood, diamonds says Ghana has agreed to tighten controls over its diamond exports. The group has been meeting in Botswana to examine charges that diamonds supplied by rebels in Ivory Coast are being marketed illegally through this West African neighbor.

The Kimberly Process of 46 governments and the European Union says Ghana has presented a plan to strengthen monitoring of its diamond exports.

The group was responding to charges by activists who say $23 million worth of rough diamonds smuggled each year by rebel groups in northern Ivory Coast are being certified as legitimate Ghanaian exports, despite a U.N. ban.

A campaigner for the Global Witness activist group, Susie Sanders, calls the development a good start.

"We would continue to call for Ghana to temporarily suspend exports," Sanders says. "But it is good that the Kimberly Process is taking this action and we will wait and see what is found in three months time."

Delegates meeting in Gaborone said members of the Kimberly Process would provide technical assistance to Ghana. And if a review in three months showed a lack of progress Ghana could face restrictions on its diamond exports.

The Republic of Congo two years ago was removed from the Kimberly Process for exporting far more diamonds than were produced by its own mines.

Sanders says it is believed that these excess diamonds were coming from conflict-zones in neighboring Angola and Democratic Republic of Congo.

"The ban is still in effect from the Republic of Congo and it means that the Republic of Congo cannot officially carry out any diamond exports to any country that is a member of the Kimberly Process," Sanders says.

She adds that there are reports that conflict diamonds are also coming through several South American nations, including Brazil, Guyana, and Venezuela.

Sanders says greater controls are needed, including monitoring of imports and exports of rough diamonds and physical checks in exporting countries, in order to ensure that the principles of the Kimberly Process are implemented.

The Kimberly Process was created three years ago to prevent smuggled diamonds from war zones from fueling continued conflict. The Process has reportedly reduced the amount of conflict diamonds on the world market to less than one percent. Activists say blood diamonds constituted as much as 15 percent of the world trade a decade ago.