U.N. Imposes Ban on Sierra Leone Diamonds

From Times Wire Services

The U.N. Security Council on Wednesday imposed an embargo on diamond exports from Sierra Leone, where a thriving gems-for-guns trade is fueling a simmering civil war.

The vote was 14 to 0, with Mali abstaining in protest at the resolution's mentioning Liberia as a conduit for the illegal diamonds. Mali said it opposed the reference to illegal diamonds being shipped through Liberian territory because regional nations have not completed an investigation into the allegations.

Under the resolution, all rough diamonds from Sierra Leone are banned until the government of the West African nation can set up a proper certification system for the gems, as well as regain access to lucrative diamond-mining areas under the control of the rebel Revolutionary United Front.

"We have always maintained that the conflict in Sierra Leone is not about ideology, tribal or regional differences," said Ibrahim Kamara, Sierra Leone's U.N. ambassador. "The root of the conflict is and remains diamonds, diamonds and diamonds."

The embargo will last 18 months, as sought by France, rather than the 36 months proposed by the United States.

Rebels control about 90% of the diamond mines, and much of the trade goes through Liberia, whose president, Charles Taylor, is a close ally of Sierra Leonean rebel chief Foday Sankoh.

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