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UN lifts Ivory Coast diamond embargo

The UN Security Council lifted a nearly decade-old embargo on Ivory Coast's international diamond trade on Tuesday and also relaxed its arms embargo there.

UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council lifted a nearly decade-old embargo on Ivory Coast's international diamond trade on Tuesday and also relaxed its arms embargo there.

The diamond embargo was declared in 2005 because the stones were helping fund the Forces Nouvelles rebels that controlled the north of the country after a failed coup attempt in 2002 against then-president Laurent Gbagbo.

However, the diamond trade is now regulated by the Kimberley Process, of which Ivory Coast is a member, and the UN oversight is seen as redundant.

A resolution adopted by the body's 15 member states terminates "the measures preventing the importation by any state of all rough diamonds from Cote d'Ivoire... in light of progress made towards Kimberley Process Certification".

Ivory Coast has for months been asking to be allowed to legally re-start exporting its diamonds, and last November, the government got the green light from the Kimberley Process for the United Nations to lift its embargo.

Created in 2000, the Kimberley Process is a global diamond watchdog that includes 75 countries and aims to prevent illegally mined and so-called "blood diamonds" from filtering into the market to fuel conflicts.

According to figures from the European Union, Ivory Coast extracts between 50,000 and 300,000 carats (1 carat = 0.2 grams) of diamonds a year, well behind the world's top producers. Between 200,000 to 300,000 Ivorians make their living from diamonds, mostly as small-scale miners.

The draft resolution also relaxes the UN arms embargo on Ivory Coast. Heavy weapons would remain under strict controls, but, under the proposed changes, small caliber weapons would be allowed to be supplied to police and gendarmes under prior notification to the UN, for example.

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