A United Nations panel reported Monday that international diamond dealers are still buying diamonds from the Angolan rebel group UNITA. According to the Associated Press, the panel's interim report says, "it is clear that international dealers are still prepared to flout sanctions and buy diamonds from UNITA, and that it is very difficult, even for those countries with the will, to prevent diamond smuggling given that the system of controls on the sales of diamonds is not yet in place."
Despite the embargo, UNITA continues to mine diamonds. The Angolan government reported the rebel group has opened a new diamond mine in Malange province. The five-member panel headed by Chile's former U.N. Ambassador Juan Larrain says it's also pursuing reports that several countries have violated the sanctions in recent months, AP reports. The panel didn't identify any of the countries.
In related news, UNITA said Friday it controls half of Angola's diamond trade, contradicting a government statement that rebels had been driven out of all gem-producing areas in the country, Reuters reports.
According to Reuters, UNITA's second-in-command, Secretary-General Lukamba Paulo "Gato," was quoted in Portugal's Publico newspaper saying the group was in command of 50% of national diamond exploration. He also said UNITA has over 100,000 armed men, dismissing the government's claims that it had reduced UNITA's forces to sporadic guerrilla activity. Lukamba Paulo said UNITA was ready to talk to the government, but it's willing to fight as long as necessary.
- by Julia M. Duncan