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    RUSSIAN FINANCE MINISTER CALLS FOR TOUGHER CONTROL OVER INTERNATIONAL DIAMOND TRADE

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    MOSCOW, MARCH 31, 2004, (RIA NOVOSTI) - Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin believes that an effective control system should be created to make sure that international diamond trade complies with the principles of the Kimberley Process, launched in the year 2000 to stem the flow of so-called "conflict diamonds" from Africa to foreign markets. He stressed this point Wednesday as he spoke at a press conference devoted to the World Diamond Fund's March 30-31 session in Dubai. The Kimberley Process figures prominently on the session's agenda.

    Russia backs the international community's efforts to prevent international trade in "conflict diamonds" and to thereby deprive terrorist networks and drug traffickers of an important source of financial support, Kudrin said. In the four years since the launch of the Kimberley Process, its 70-odd participants have managed to elaborate principles to govern export and import operations involving rough diamonds. Their next priority should be the creation of an effective control mechanism to ensure that these principles are acted upon, the minister said.

    According to Kudrin, Russia draws on the positive experience of international cooperation within the Kimberley Process' framework as it tries to make its domestic diamond industry more open and transparent. These efforts are essential not just for facilitating Russian producers' integration into the world diamond market, but also for raising their attractiveness in the foreign investor's eye, the minister explained. He promised that Russia would continue to deliver on its Kimberley Process commitments, including that to bringing its trade regulations in line with the world's. According to Kudrin, one forthcoming step in that direction is the adoption of by-laws to facilitate the enforcement of recent amendments to Russia's state secret legislation. These amendments are aimed at declassifying data on Russian diamond production and trade, he explained.

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