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Liberia showing ‘limited commitment’ in abolishment of blood-diamond trade: UN

Liberian presidential candidate and warlord Charles Taylor arrives at a polling center during presidential voting in Monrovia, Liberia on July 19, 1997. Mr. Taylor was sentenced to 50 years in jail in May 2012 after profiting from a trade in blood diamonds while helping Sierra Leone’s rebels murder, rape and mutilate.

David Guttenfelder/AP

Liberia is putting in little effort to stop the blood diamond trade that has fueled conflicts in Africa, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a report on Tuesday.

The report to the UN Security Council said Liberia's capacity to control its $30 billion diamond mining and trade remained weak. This control is a vital part of the global Kimberley Process the country agreed to in 2003.

The Kimberley Process is a government-led scheme aimed at cutting off diamond trade that has created issues, such as Liberia's 1989-2003 bloody civil war.

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According to the report, Liberia's presidential taskforce on diamonds have not met in a year. Its technical committee assembled in July for the first time in seven months.

"Limited commitment to comply with the minimum standards of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme for Rough Diamonds remains apparent," the report said.

It said the U.S. Agency for International Development had signaled it would stop funding a program to help the Liberian government improve compliance with the Kimberley Process, partly due to Liberia's lack of commitment to the scheme.

Diamond-producing countries have been accused of showing little interest in reform. Campaign group Global Witness withdrew as an official observer of the process in December after it deemed the scheme an outdated failure.

Former Liberian President Charles Taylor was sentenced to 50 years in jail in May for helping Sierra Leone's rebels murder, rape and mutilate their way across Liberia's West African neighbor while profiting from a trade in blood diamonds.

Logging has also been a controversial issue in Liberia since the civil war – when rebels used proceeds from timber to purchase weapons, triggering a UN ban. The ban was lifted after Liberia's foreign partners, particularly the United States and the World Bank, helped it reform its forestry laws.

The United Nations said Liberia's forestry sector was still facing big challenges.

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"Commercial operators have to date paid only an estimated $1.9 million of the estimated $25.6 million owed to the government.

"The government continues to issue large tracts of forest area to commercial operators through private use permits, which have weak enforcement mechanisms and place limited financial and social obligations on companies," it said.

Global Witness said earlier this month that Liberia's forestry department had given over a quarter of the country's land area to logging firms over the past two years in a flurry of shady deals.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, fending off accusations of graft and nepotism within her government, has suspended the head of the Forestry Development Authority and launched a probe into the deals amid concerns of widespread fraud and mismanagement.

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