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Kimberley_processThe member states of a UN-backed body that aims to counter the trade in so-called "conflict diamonds" voted Wednesday to step up efforts to stop illicit diamond exports from Ivory Coast, thought to fund separatist rebels.

At a meeting in Moscow, members of the Kimberley Process, which includes 44 countries plus the European Union, "noted with grave concern the evidence... that significant illicit production of diamonds is continuing" in northern parts of Ivory Coast controlled by separatist forces, a resolution agreed at the meeting read.

The Kimberley Process was set up in South Africa in 2000 to establish a system of certifying rough diamonds in order to prevent them being used to fund conflict.

On Wednesday members discussed further ways of coordinating controls on the trade in west Africa, particularly in countries bordering Ivory Coast.

The member states of the Kimberley Process are thought to account for virtually all of the global production of rough diamonds.

However a pressure group, Global Witness, on Tuesday cast doubt on the group's effectiveness, saying that illicit diamond trading remained a major problem for both Ivory Coast and Liberia.

"Weak government controls are failing to stop diamonds from fuelling conflict," Global Witness said. "Despite considerable achievements, both governments and the diamond industry must share the blame for flaws in the implementation of the Kimberley Process."

Ivory Coast has been divided and in a state of crisis since a war broke out in 2002 that has pitted the government in Abidjan against rebels who control the north of the country.   



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