US President George Bush signed into law a bill that prohibits the import and export of so-called "conflict diamonds" to and from the United States on Friday, attempting to cut funds to insurgent groups in Africa.

Angola's United Nations Ambassador
Ismael Gaspar Martins welcomes the
measure to reduce diamond exports 

 

"Conflict diamonds have been used by rebel groups in Africa to finance their atrocities committed on civilian populations," Bush said, adding that they have also been used to battle internationally recognized government.

 

This policy marks the total US divorce from groups such as Angola’s UNITA that received US financial backing during the Cold War.

 

The Clean Diamond Trade Act requires diamond dealers to keep records of all shipments, making such records available to US law enforcement authorities.

 

"Conflict" or "blood" diamonds are mined in troubled regions in Africa and have helped finance civil wars in countries such as Sierra Leone, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

 

Under the system, all batches of imported uncut diamonds must be accompanied by a specially produced document issued by national authorities, stating the country of origin of the diamonds and printed in such a way as to be hard to forge.

 

The bill seeks to finalize the structure of the Kimberlevel. Diamond importing and exporting countries agreed to the pact, known as the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme last November after more than two years of negotiations.

 

Fifty-two countries have announced that they formally adopt the Kimberley Process, launched in South Africa in 2000 and supported by the United Nations.

 

Forty-six countries said they would implement the scheme on January 1, 2003, and a further six countries pledged to set it up by the end of 2003.

 

Americans buy 65 to 70 percent of the world's diamonds, including rough diamonds, polished stones and jewellry containing diamonds, according to the US General Accounting Office.

 

The United States imports relatively few rough diamonds compared to other countries, but still purchased approximately $816 million worth from 53 countries in 2000, the GAO said.

 

Countries participating in the Kimberley Process will hold their meeting next week in Johannesburg, South Africa.

 

Aljazeera