I Coast ignores diamond ban

2009-06-26 22:23

Windhoek - Diamond production in Ivory Coast is increasing despite a UN ban on their export, the head of the Kimberley Process said on Friday, after a meeting on curbing the sale of "blood diamonds".

The UN Security Council last October extended a ban on Ivorian diamond exports as part of targeted sanctions meant to prod the west African nation towards holding free and fair elections.

A UN team in April found that Ivory Coast was still producing rough diamonds despite the ban, findings supported by a team of Kimberley Process (KP) experts who also visited the country, Bernhard Esau, chairman of the process, told reporters.

"The satellite images provided by the UN group show that rough diamond production is going on and increasing, and this was indicated by ground observations of the KP working group of diamond experts," Esau said after a three-day meeting on preventing diamonds from financing armed conflicts.

Task force

He said the Kimberley Process supported the creation of a regional task force to bring Ivory Coast into compliance with the ban.

"We further discussed options for additional Kimberley Process action and constructive engagement to end the smuggling of conflict diamonds out of Cote d'Ivoire," Esau said, referring to the country by its French name.

Ivory Coast is scheduled to hold a presidential election on November 29.

The election is intended to end a crisis that has gripped the West African state since September 2002, when the rebel New Forces (NF) attempted a coup against President Laurent Gbagbo and then occupied the northern half of the country.

Peace accords signed in 2007 and then late in 2008 in Ouagadougou first saw the FN leader Guillaume Soro become head of government, and then set a timetable for the presidential election which lapsed several times.

The two sides are slowly moving to bring down barriers, and the presidential election is meant to bring to a close a painful chapter in the country's history.