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Botswana Takes on Diamond Oversight

FILE: An illegal diamond dealer from Zimbabwe displays diamonds for sale in Manica. Taken September 19, 2010.

Botswana has won its bid to host the permanent secretariat of the Kimberley Process (KP), the grouping that certifies that diamonds are not used to fund rebel groups, but its members remain divided over Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The KP, a coalition of governments, the diamond industry and civil society representatives, said in a statement on Monday it had unanimously elected Botswana to host the Secretariat, which is expected to become operational by 2024.

Five KP members initially expressed interest to host it before the list was whittled down to three, with Botswana, China and Austria in contention.

The 85-nation body was established in 2003 to eliminate trade in conflict diamonds. Although it says it has made progress in halting such trade, the civil society organizations linked to the industry have been demanding reforms.

The body defines conflict diamonds as gems used to fund rebel movements seeking to undermine legitimate governments.

After it invaded its neighbor Ukraine in February, Russia drew sharp criticism from civil society, which is pushing to broaden the KP's definition of conflict diamonds to include state actors using the stones to fund acts of aggression.