December 8, 2005

U.N. Council considers diamond ban for Ivory Coast

By Daniel Trotta

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - France proposed a U.N. diamond
embargo on Ivory Coast on Thursday to stop rebels in the
war-divided nation from using the gems to buy guns.

France added the ban on diamonds to a draft Security
Council resolution, which would also renew sanctions against
individuals that had been adopted earlier but not imposed.

If the resolution is passed, the diamond embargo would take
effect immediately, imposing penalties on anyone caught dealing
in Ivorian gems. The 15-nation Security Council council has
already put an arms embargo on the Ivory Coast.

Ivory Coast, the world's largest cocoa producer, has been
cut in two since a 2002 civil war launched by rebels who tried
to oust President Laurent Gbagbo.

U.N. and French peacekeepers police a buffer zone between
the rebel-held north and government-held south.

"There is some illicit traffic of diamonds in the north
which is used to buy (arms)," France's U.N. ambassador,
Jean-Marc de la Sabiere told reporters. "So having an embargo
on diamonds will help the peace process to go forward."

The London-based advocacy group Global Witness says
diamonds mined in the north are smuggled to international
markets, contravening the Kimberly Process, an international
initiative to halt the sale of "conflict diamonds."

The West African nation mines about 300,000 carats of
diamonds a year, largely in the rebel-controlled north,
according to Global Witness, which studies how the sale of
natural resources funds conflicts.

Under a U.N.-backed plan, Gbagbo was allowed to remain as
president beyond the October 30 end of his five-year mandate
until presidential elections are held.

In the meantime, Charles Konan Banny was named prime
minister, vested with powers to carry out disarmament and
electoral reforms in order to organize the presidential polls
by the end of October of next year.

The Security Council voted over a year ago to impose
targeted sanctions -- including a travel ban or a freeze on
assets -- against any government or rebel leader found to be
blocking the peace process.

That threat of sanctions was due to run out on December 15.
The Security Council is expected to decide on renewing the
sanctions plan and proposed diamond embargo next week.