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The government of Sierra Leone lifted a ban on diamond exports on Thursday after it took delivery of specially printed certificates that should make it more difficult for rebels to benefit from gem sales.

Mineral Resources Minister Mohammed Deen presented the certificates to the press at the central bank in Freetown.

"The ban on diamond trading externally from Sierra Leone has been lifted with effect from today," he said.

Sierra Leone imposed the ban in mid-July to back up efforts by the United Nations and world diamond traders to stem illegal sales by the rebel Revolutionary United Front.

The certificates will guarantee that diamonds have been sold through official channels.