10 February 2006

Make sure all that sparkles is conflict-free

Belfast Telegraph

By Deborah McAleese
10 February 2006

Pressure is mounting on Ulster's jewellers to ensure the diamonds they sell are "bloodshed" free.

With the sale of diamonds increasing in the run up to Valentine's Day, Northern Ireland's romantic shoppers have been urged to ensure that they purchase the perfect stone - one that has not been traded to fund armed conflict and civil war.

The horrifying affects of conflict diamonds will soon be highlighted in the Hollywood movie The Blood Diamond, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Connelly.

Set in Sierra Leone in 1999 DiCaprio plays a juggler specialised in blood diamonds - stones used to finance rebellions, privateers and terrorists.

Conflict diamonds are those sold in order to fund armed conflict and civil war. Warlords and rebel groups in countries including Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia and Sierra Leone have used billions of dollars of profits from the sale of diamonds from the mines they control to buy arms and fund devastating wars.

Director of the Northern Ireland Amnesty International branch, Patrick Corrigan, said: "Diamonds are a once in a lifetime purchase that people often choose as a token of love. I don't believe people here want this special gift to be related to the pain and suffering of others.

"Despite some progress, we are still concerned that the local diamond industry is falling short in combating the trade in conflict diamonds. They must keep their promises to end this devastating trade."

Diamonds mined in rebel-held areas in Cote d'Ivoire, a West African country in the midst of a volatile conflict, are currently reaching the international diamond market.

A new guide to help local shoppers chose the perfect stone has been published and explains that consumers can make a difference by insisting that the diamond industry keep the promises it has made to end the trade in conflict diamonds.

It recommends that shoppers ask retailers where the diamonds they sell come from and to see a copy of the company's policy on conflict diamonds as well as a written guarantee from suppliers that shows the diamonds are conflict free.

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