Watchdog backs end to Ivory Coast 'blood diamond' ban

Global diamond watchdog, the Kimberley Process, on Friday gave its backing for the lifting of a 2005 UN embargo on diamond sales from Ivory Coast.

"The plenary recognised that Cote d'Ivoire has fulfilled ... minimum requirements," under the group's certification system, which is designed to stop the export of conflict, or "blood" diamonds.

The move clears a major hurdle for the west African country to resume trading its diamonds on the international market.

The UN banned Ivorian diamonds to prevent the money from sales being used to fund arms purchases during a civil war, which began in 2002.

The world body first imposed an arms embargo in 2004 and then a ban on trading in rough diamonds was added the following year, as a rebellion divided the country.

The holding of free, fair and transparent presidential elections in line with the international standards was one of the conditions for the reviewing of the ban.

President Alassane Ouattara won fiercely contested polls in 2010.

Ivory Coast, which is the world's leading cocoa producer, is the only country still with a UN Security Council ban on sales of its stones.

Satisfied with the progress made so far, the Kimberley Process said it now "encouraged" the Ivory Coast to come up with "a transition strategy and roadmap towards the lifting of the UN embargo"

The European Union which houses the world's largest diamond market added its voice saying it welcomed the progress made by Ivory Coast to attain compliance with the Kimberley Process certification rules.