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Diamond industry approves ban on war-related gems
ANTWERP, Belgium -- The world diamond industry adopted strict new measures Wednesday to stop the flow of so-called "conflict diamonds" from rebel groups that trade gems for guns to fight some of Africa's most bloody civil wars.
Industry groups approved measures to track diamonds from the mine to the jewelry store.
"We're looking for a universal auditing and certification scheme for all manufacturing centers. In fact, every movement from any country of any parcel of rough diamonds will be sealed and certified so it can be traced," said Sean Cohen, president of the International Diamond Manufacturers Association (IDMA), at the World Diamond Congress in Antwerp.
So-called "blood diamonds" are estimated to account for about 4 percent of the $6.8 billion of diamonds produced each year, feeding a retail industry worth more than $50 billion.
"Whether it's 4 percent or 1 percent, it's one diamond too many," Cohen said. "Over the three days of deliberations it was very clear that the feeling of everyone was conflict diamonds are not acceptable," Cohen told a news conference.
Industry giants say they want to guarantee their diamonds are conflict free.
"Diamonds should not be a part of the equation of any kind of misery or conflict. We are taking this issue very seriously," said Andrew Bone, a spokesman for diamond industry giant De Beers. "Anyone dealing in conflict diamonds will be named, shamed and expelled from the industry."
Diamonds blamed for African wars
Conflict diamonds have been blamed for funding some of Africa's most savage rebel wars, which have left hundreds of thousands dead and mutilated in Sierra Leone, Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
"It is common knowledge they (the rebels) have been mining diamonds," Sierra Leone Minister of Mines Alhaj Mohammed Deen told the congress. "The way we see it, the diamonds seem to be providing the means of buying the arms."
"Diamonds have a great value," said Rory Anderson of World Vision. "Even one diamond can buy several weapons. So the percentages are quite irrelevant -- very little can purchase a lot to continue to wreak havoc and instability and suffering upon large numbers of populations."
The IDMA and World Federation of Diamond Bourses (WFDB) said the industry would be able to implement measures beginning at the end of the year.
Industry representatives will meet Thursday with interested governments in London to discuss the new rules. With government help, the industry hopes to have the global certification process in place before Christmas, Cohen said.
"We will also be taking it up at the United Nations where all these nations sit to speed it along," he added.
Laws would be needed in diamond exporting countries, those buying polished diamonds and those importing rough stones to ensure criminal penalties for anyone trading in conflict diamonds, the groups said.
Anyone caught would be immediately banned from the 24 bourses around the globe that form the WFDB.
"The sooner we get rid of them the better," said Peter Muess, managing director of the Diamond High Council. "We don't want these individuals in our business."
"I think they're doing the right thing," said Ian Smillie, diamond project coordinator for Partnership Africa Canada, which has campaigned for tough measures. "Instead of putting a PR spin, they are actually changing -- major changes in an industry that hasn't changed much in 100 years."
CNN Brussels Bureau Chief Patricia Kelly and Reuters contributed to this report.
Diamond industry reacts to charges that it's letting trade in 'blood diamonds' pay for African wars
World Diamond Congress
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