South Africa and Russia Shun Conflict Diamond Conference

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(Rapaport…October 25, 2000) Russia and South Africa will not be attending an international conference on conflict diamonds set to take place in London on October 25. In doing so, Russia is backtracking on an agreement made between British prime minister Tony Blair and Russian president Vladimir Putin, this past July, for their countries to co-host the conference.

Russia will not be sending ministers to the conference, although officials are expected to attend. South Africa will be represented by a member of the high commission. An estimated 30 countries will be attending the conference.

The Financial Times reports that Nchaka Moloi, advisor to the South African minister of minerals and energy, Phumzile Mlambo Ngcuka, said the South African government was not comfortable with the timing of the conference.

In September, South African representatives, and ministers from participating countries with stakes in the diamond industry, signed a declaration in Pretoria that agreed to move ahead with an international certification program for importing and exporting rough diamonds. South Africa will put forward this resolution to the United Nations’ General Assembly in November. The resolution could form the basis for the UN-sponsored treaty to tackle conflict diamonds.

Moloi said that since the London conference is supposed to launch intergovernmental negotiation about a global certification scheme, it should logically follow the tabling of the resolution to the General Assembly — not precede it.

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