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UN cuts chapter from Congo plunder report
( 2003-10-28 09:26) (Agencies)

The U.N. Security Council is expected to keep under wraps a controversial chapter on the plunder of minerals in the Congo, part of a report that names and shames governments and multinational firms, diplomats said on Monday.

The main part of the probe from an independent panel, disclosed by Reuters on Friday, puts the diamond giant De Beers on a list of unresolved cases and proposes the break up of large inefficient state-owned mining firms.

But another section was given to the 15 Security Council members only. U.N. officials feared it would wreck the peace process by its allegations against Rwanda, Uganda and parts of the Kinshasa government, cited in previous reports as heavily involved in the pillaging, diplomats said.

Others said much of the material was anecdotal, relying on rumors without evidence, an indication the Security Council at a Thursday meeting will keep it under wraps.

The panel's reports have been fraught with controversy, first because they were loosely formulated, then because its accusations touched a political nerve. The United States wants the probe closed at the end of November as do Russia and China, for different reasons, council envoys said.

Four reports, since 2001, followed the scramble to exploit mineral wealth in the Democratic Republic of the Congo amid a raging civil war that began in 1998 and is slowly subsiding.

The pillagers included multinational firms, Rwanda and Uganda as well as Zimbabwe, accused of fueling the war and using forced labor to exploit gems and minerals.

Among the resources in the Congo are gold, diamonds, niobium, cassiterite, medicinal barks, cobalt, copper and coltan, used in mobile phones and nuclear reactor parts.

Several human rights and aid groups believe the United Nations (news - web sites) and the countries in which suspect firms are located have done little to follow up on the investigation.

"So far, the findings of the U.N. panel, implicating Uganda, Rwanda and Zimbabwe as well as many companies worldwide, have not led to investigations or action against these actors," Amnesty International said of the panel, headed by Mahmoud Kassem, an Egyptian diplomat.

"It is of the utmost importance that the U.N. Security Council establishes a mechanism to continue to monitor actively the resource exploitation to ensure that it is not tainted with human rights abuses," Amnesty said in a statement.


Last year's report included a lengthy list of 29 companies and 54 individuals linked to plunder or rights abuses. The new report broke down the firms into categories, according to how they responded to the allegations.

It also put in categories 85 multinationals in South Africa, Europe and elsewhere it said had violated ethical guidelines and human rights standards.

De Beers and several other firms were put in the category of "unresolved" cases for possibly violating standards from the Organization of for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Another in this group include Avient Air, which supplies equipment to the Zimbabwean and Congo military. The panel last year said the company had been contracted to organize bombing raids into eastern Congo in 1999 and 2000.

The new report also recommended the break up of two large state-owned mineral resource enterprises, it called "grossly inefficient" firms that "channeled away" revenues that should be used by the Congolese people.

One was the copper producer, Gecamines, technically owned by the government but once largely controlled by Zimbabwean interests and now considering joint ventures with Canadian and South African firms. The other is MIBA, a diamond company largely owned by the state, with additional shares controlled by De Beers.

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