U.N. Lifts Diamond Ban in Liberia

The U.N. Security Council ended a six-year ban on Liberian diamond exports aimed at stopping conflict diamonds from reaching the world market, Reuters reports.

The unanimous vote by the 15-nation council taken on Friday was in “recognition of the progress made by Liberia” in setting up controls on its diamonds, which helped fuel a 14-year civil war that ended in 2003, British Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry reportedly said.

The resolution said Liberia had taken action to meet the minimum demands of the Kimberley Process, a mechanism that requires participating governments to provide certificates for rough diamonds to show they came from legitimate operations, Reuters reports. The council will review its decision in 90 days.

Conflict diamonds also have been blamed for financing wars in other African countries, including Sierra Leone, Angola, Ivory Coast, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, who took office last year, has pushed hard for an end to the embargo, saying the money from diamond sales was badly needed to finance reconstruction in her war-ravaged country.

The lifting of the embargo, in a resolution drafted by the United States, came some two months before the latest extension of the ban had been due to end, Reuters reports.

Liberian U.N. Ambassador Nathaniel Barnes told reporters he had just learned that his country’s application to join the Kimberley Process, filed in late March, would be accepted, Reuters reports.

Barnes reportedly said the West African country, founded by freed American slaves, had 85 percent unemployment with former combatants accounting for many of the jobless. The resumption of diamond exports would help get them back to work.

The Security Council has lifted a ban on Liberian timber exports. The only sanctions still in force against Liberia are a travel ban and assets freeze against certain named individuals.