Thursday, June 19, 2008

Beware of blood diamonds, India warns (Lead)

New Delhi, The guns may have fallen silent over "blood diamonds" but the situation remains fragile and it was necessary to ensure that diamonds sold by rebel groups who mine them illegally are not allowed to enter the global market, India told a global diamond conference here Tuesday.

"Our vigil is not over. And we must continue to be alert and active," Commerce Secretary G.K. Pillai told the annual conference on the Kimberley Process Certificate Scheme (KPCS) here. India is its current chair.

"The guns are becoming increasingly silent, but we must be alive to the fact that several fragile situations exist," he told the delegates from 34 out of 74 countries that are members of the Kimberly Process.

Under the initiative of the United Nations, KPCS seeks to ensure that only those diamonds that are sold by legitimate entities - as opposed to rebel groups - enter the global market.

"We must also find solution to the problem of fake KP certificates. It undermines the very core of what KPCS wants to achieve. The problem must be addressed."

Pillai said India's diamond industry, which registered export of over $13 billion last fiscal, was one of the biggest success stories, even though it was the IT industry that gets more publicity.

He said the diamond industry here provided jobs to over one million people and had a 60-percent share in the world's polished diamond industry by value and about 82 percent by volume.

Representatives from 34 countries are participating in the three-day conference, aimed at eliminating conflict or "blood" diamonds. India, which became its chair for a year beginning Jan 1, is hosting the conference for the first time.

Some of the key participating nations are Australia, the US, the UAE, Canada, Congo, Israel, Liberia, Namibia, South Africa, Russia, China, Britain, Romania, Brazil, and Tanzania.

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