Nov 09, 2001
Senators want legislation to cut off diamond trade linked to
COPLEY NEWS SERVICE
WASHINGTON - A bipartisan group of senators, including Dick Durbin of Springfield, urged Congress Thursday to pass legislation that
would help cut off the illegal diamond trade that allegedly earns millions of dollars for Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist network.
A day after the Bush administration announced a renewed attempt to freeze the terrorists' financial assets, the senators said the federal
government also should stem the sale of "conflict diamonds."
Months ago, they introduced a bill that would create a system to track diamonds soon after they are mined and to certify their origin in order
to keep the illegal diamonds out of the marketplace.
In the House, a similar bill is expected to be approved next week.
Although the United Nations is working on a worldwide certification system, the United States' support is critical because it buys 65 percent
of the world's diamonds.
"The diamond has been an age-old symbol of love. Unfortunately, now it is becoming a part of the international currency of terrorism,"
Durbin said at a press conference in the Capitol.
"If we are going to cut off funds used by terrorists to carry out their attacks, we can't ignore the millions of dollars they earn from the illegal
diamond trade," Durbin said. "That means ensuring that no diamond can make it from the bloody hands of a Sierra Leone rebel to the jewelry
case at the local mall."
The Washington Post last week reported that bin Laden's terrorist organization has collected millions of dollars in the past three years from
the illegal sale of diamonds mined by rebels in Sierra Leone.
The rebels, who became infamous during Sierra Leone's civil war for cutting off the limbs of civilians and kidnapping children and forcing
them to fight, mined the diamonds and sold them for a fraction of their market price to al-Qaida representatives.
While the diamond industry at first opposed any such certification program, it recently has worked with lawmakers to come up with an