Diamond industry: no gems must fall in teerrorist's hands

The diamond industry must assume more measures to prevent child labor and substandard work conditions and wages, and must keep the gems out of hands of criminals and terrorists, leading diamond official said Thursday.

A succession of speakers in Jerusalem for the annual World Diamond Council conference pointed out the progress the industry has made in curbing the use of diamonds to fund wars in Africa. The so-called "Kimberley Process" requires certification to ensure gems do not come from illegal trade that supports conflicts.

World Diamond Council chairman Eli Izakoff said "conflict diamonds" now account for 0.2 percent of the world's diamond production, as opposed to 4 percent in 1999.

"The days when people didn't know or didn't care are over," said Gareth Penny, the managing director of De Beers, which controls about 40 percent of the world's diamond trade.

Izakoff said Ivory Coast remained the main culprit, and that child labor and substandard work conditions and wages have replaced "conflict diamonds" as the industry's main problem.

Sergey Vybornov, the president of Alrosa, Russia's state diamond monopoly, was less sanguine about the Kimberley Process' achievements.

"The Kimberley Process is a first step, but it faces new challenges today," Vybornov said. "We do not know how many diamonds end up in the gray economy, and are used by criminal and terrorist organizations."

The World Diamond Council was set up in July 2000 to explore ways to reduce trafficking in conflict diamonds. It is separate from the Kimberley Process, but is represented in its working groups.

Israel is a major diamond-polishing center.

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Author`s name Angela Antonova