* Country lobbying for end to war-era U.N. export ban
* Will present plan for Kimberley Process compliance
* U.N. says former rebels still pocketing diamond revenues
By Loucoumane Coulibaly and Joe Bavier
ABIDJAN, June 3 Ivory Coast will lobby for the
lifting of a United Nations ban on its diamond exports at a
meeting this week, a government official said, arguing that its
stones are no longer a threat to the country's stability now its
civil war is over.
The U.N. Security Council slapped an embargo on the West
African nation's diamonds in 2005 to prevent their sale from
funding arms purchases and fuelling the conflict, which began in
Ivory Coast is the last remaining source of so-called blood
diamonds and the only country under a U.N. export ban of such
"We want the diamond embargo lifted. Today, Ivory Coast is
not a country at war," Fatimata Thes, the ministry of mines
official heading the lobbying effort, told Reuters. "We want to
take full advantage of our wealth and practise good governance
by exerting control over the marketing process."
Blood diamonds - diamonds used to fund insurgencies - were
thrust into the global spotlight in the 1990s during a
succession of African conflicts where their trade financed arms
purchases and resulted in human rights abuses.
At the height of wars in Sierra Leone and Angola, about a
fifth of all rough stones worldwide were believed to be blood
diamonds, also known as conflict diamonds.
Public outcry led to the establishment in 2002 of the
Kimberley Process, a government, industry and civil scheme aimed
at certifying stones and preventing conflict diamonds entering
the international market.
The diamond industry says such stones now represent less
than one percent of world supply.
The government of president Alassane Ouattara, seeking funds
for post-war reconstruction, is striving to bring the country's
diamond sector into compliance with the Kimberly Process, seen
as a step towards having the U.N. ban lifted.
An Ivorian delegation plans to submit a plan for its diamond
sector during a four-day Kimberley Process meeting that begins
in Washington on Monday. Talks are also under way with several
international diamond firms to establish marketing partnerships.
When war broke out in 2002 following a failed coup against
then President Laurent Gbagbo, rebels seized control of the
northern half of the country and the diamond fields there.
The U.N. Security Council voted in April to maintain the ban
on Ivorian diamond exports. U.N. monitors said illegal
trafficking had continued unabated despite the embargo with
revenues going to rebel commanders, now integrated into the
Analysts fear that continued military involvement in the
diamond sector will not only hinder efforts to have the ban
lifted, but could also endanger still fragile progress in
creating a unified national army in Ivory Coast.
"Military, guns and control of diamonds don't mix," said
Alan Martin, research director for Partnership Africa Canada, a
civil member of the Kimberley Process.
"The concern is that these revenues are now flowing into the
pockets of former militia, and you don't know what they are
going to be used for."
(Reporting by Loucoumane Coulibaly; Additional reporting and
writing by Joe Bavier; Editing by Pravin Char)