Tony Hall will leave Congress for U.N. post

Rep. Tony Hall, D-Ohio, who has led the effort in Congress to pass “conflict diamonds” legislation, will be leaving Congress to accept a position as U.S. representative to U.N. food and agriculture industries.

News services report that President Bush will nominate Hall to U.N. position. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, the White House said Hall would lead the United States’ work in Rome with several agencies, including the World Food Program, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and the International Fund for Agriculture Development. The agencies seek to alleviate poverty and hunger in poor areas around the world.

Hall, a 12-term incumbent, was expected to win re-election easily in November’s U.S. congressional election but other Democrats may find it tougher following the redrawing of his western Ohio district in a manner making it more Republican.

Hall has led the effort in Congress to stop the flow of “conflict diamonds” since he learned on a trip to Sierra Leone in 1999 of the links between rebel groups in that country and Angola and diamond sales. The Revolutionary United Front (RUF) rebel group was using its control over Sierra Leone’s diamond fields to sustain its brutal war against the government and the civilian population.

Backed by neighboring Liberia and Burkina Faso, which also profited from its diamond operations, RUF became notorious around the world for its trademark terror tactic of cutting off the limbs of its victims, including small children.

Hall also has a long history of seeking to reduce hunger in the United States and abroad. The 60-year-old congressman served in the Peace Corps in Thailand in his youth. As a congressman, he has made trips to famine-hit countries, including Somalia and North Korea, and recently visited Afghanistan.