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US Lawmakers Support International Agreement to Ban 'Conflict' Diamonds - 2003-04-10

The U.S. Senate is expected to follow the House of Representatives and pass legislation this week aimed at banning international trade in uncut diamonds that fund rebel activities in Africa.

The legislation is required for the United States to implement an international agreement to ban trade in so-called 'blood' or 'conflict' diamonds. Such diamonds are mined in areas of conflict and help finance civil wars in countries including Sierra Leone, Angola, and Democratic Republic of Congo.

The accord, known as the Kimberly Process Certification Scheme, was reached between diamond importing and exporting countries last November after two years of negotiations.

The pact calls for imported uncut diamonds to be accompanied by certificates stating their country of origin.

The U.S. General Accounting Office says Americans buy more than half the world's diamonds. Because of that, many lawmakers argue, the United States has a moral responsibility to take the lead in trying to stop funding civil wars.

"We have a moral obligation to help stop the violence, to help stop the brutality, to help stop the needless killing and the maiming that is going on," said Republican Senator Mike Dewine, an Ohio Republican.

The House of Representatives passed the legislation Tuesday. Differences in the House and Senate versions will have to be reconciled before a final bill is sent to President Bush for his signature.