Liberia says lacks cash not will to fight blood diamonds
MONROVIA, Sept 14
MONROVIA, Sept 14 (Reuters) - Liberia has challenged a United Nations report that questioned its commitment to stamp out the trade in blood diamonds, saying it lacked the means not the will to clean up its role in the industry.
A report to the U.N. Security Council earlier this week said the West African state, whose wars between 1989 and 2003 were partly fuelled by fighting over diamonds, had shown limited commitment to international efforts to regulate the trade, known as the Kimberley Process.
" We are constrained by a capacity problem. That we accept. ( But) the government does not lack the will," Betty Blamo, acting minister of lands and mines, said late on Thursday.
"We do recognise that we do have challenges and we are putting into place measures to resolve some of these challenges ... But it is unfair to say that we have not done anything in that area," she added.
Blamo blamed the lack of financial resources in Liberia, which has attracted international mining and oil investors but is still rebuilding after 14 years of near constant conflict that killed hundreds of thousands of people.
Blood diamonds - diamonds used to fund insurgencies - were thrust into the spotlight in the 1990s during a series of African conflicts where their trade financed arms purchases and resulted in human rights abuses.
The Kimberley Process was launched in 2003 with the aim of certifying stones and preventing blood or conflict diamonds entering the international market.
Blamo said that Liberia's steps to be part of the global Kimberly Process, that aims to regulate the $30 billion rough-diamond industry, included dispatching inspectors to monitor the trade and the demarcation of mining areas.
According to government figures, official diamond exports have risen from 7,000 carats in 2007 to 49,000 carats in 2011.
"This tells you the chain of custody structure which we put into place is working. We were able to track about 60 percent of diamonds taken from Liberia ... no country can track 100 percent of diamonds," Blamo said.
But the U.N. report said that government bodies due to oversee the Kimberly Process were meeting infrequently and said the United States had said it might stop funding a programme to help the Liberian government improve compliance, partly due to Liberia's lack of commitment to the scheme.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year for her work for women's rights and is widely praised abroad for stabilising Liberia, faces complaints at home that she has not done enough to fight corruption. (Reporting by Alphonso Toweh; Writing by David Lewis. Editing by Jane Merriman)
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