Syria hits Israel 'conflict diamond' leadership

AP News
Posted: Dec 11, 2009 1:24 PM

Israel, chosen last month to oversee global efforts to end the trade in "blood diamonds" that stokes guerrilla wars, was put on the spot Friday when Syria asked the U.N. General Assembly to delete any mention of the Jewish state's leadership role.

The General Assembly suspended its deliberations for consultations Friday morning after the United States, Canada and Israel challenged the Syrian parliamentary maneuver and expressed confusion over what it meant and what effect it would have.

After a recess, the General Assembly reconvened, and the Syrian amendment was defeated 90-6, with 18 abstentions. Iran and North Korea joined Syria and some Arab nations in voting against Israel.

The Syrian objection came as the Assembly was poised to adopt a Namibia-sponsored resolution welcoming progress over the past year in efforts to cut the trade in "conflict diamonds," which have provoked some of Africa's most vicious civil wars and rebel movements.

Syria objected to a passing reference near the end of the six-page resolution that simply noted that nations involved in the Kimberley Process "selected Israel to chair" their efforts in 2010. The decision was made at an annual meeting in November in Namibia.

The Kimberley Process imposes stringent requirements on its 49 members to certify shipments of rough diamonds as "conflict-free." The group consists of states and regional economic organizations that trade in rough diamonds, representing 75 countries.

Israel is a global trading center for rough diamonds, and was among the founders of the Kimberley Process.

The "conflict diamond" issue attracted increased public awareness because of the 2006 Hollywood film "Blood Diamond," starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Connelly, which showed how "conflict diamonds" financed civil war in Sierra Leone.

Now Ivory Coast is the main remaining offender under watch by the Kimberley Process.