Movement Against Conflict Diamonds Strengthening

June 13, 2000

Movement Against Conflict Diamonds Strengthening

In an emergency meeting, the Board of Directors of the Israel Diamond Exchange decided Sunday to revoke the membership of any diamantaire who knowingly trades in conflict diamonds benefiting rebel movements in Angola, Sierra Leone and the Congo. Once expelled from the exchange, a diamantaire is automatically expelled from all 23 diamond exchanges around the world.

Shmuel Schnitzer, president of the Israel Diamond Exchange, issued a call to the heads of all diamond exchanges to adopt this decision to bring a halt to the trade of conflict diamonds. Schnitzer urged the industry to trade only diamonds originating from official government sources. The board said its position concurs with that of World Federation of Diamond Bourses President Itzhak Forem, whose group will meet in July and issue an official decision.

The Israel Diamond Exchange's decision is a follow-up to its agreement to join the United Nations and human rights groups in the struggle against the illegal uses of diamonds.

In related news, plans to list Oryx Diamonds Ltd., a mining firm with a $1 billion Congo diamond concession, on a London stock exchange this week were canceled Monday amid mounting controversy about the role diamonds play in fueling African wars.

Originally, Petra Diamonds Ltd. planned to merge with Oryx Natural Resources Ltd. to allow Oryx a UK stock listing, but Petra shareholders voted to adjourn a meeting on the deal indefinitely. According to Reuters, Petra Chairman Adonis Pouroulis said there was no choice but to adjourn after its nominated advisor, Grant Thornton, said it would quit if the deal went through. Stock market rules require listing firms to be approved by an independent advisor.

Oryx's plan to dig diamonds out of war-torn Congo, using its London stock listing to raise funds, prompted a barrage of criticism from government officials and human rights activists.

Oryx denies it will be producing "blood" or "conflict" diamonds from the Congo concession near Mbuji Mayi, an area controlled by Zimbabwean troops. However, the company has profit-sharing arrangements with Osleg, a firm linked to the Zimbabwean government, and Comiex, which has ties to the Congo government, leading to fear that revenues will fuel the Congo war.

- by Julia M. Duncan