14 April 2003
General Assembly Text Strongly Supports "Kimberley Process" Certification Scheme, Aimed at Combating Use of Diamonds for Financing Conflict
Draft Resolution Introduced by South Africa; International Certification Effort Went into Effect 1 January 2003
NEW YORK, 11 April (UN Headquarters) -- A draft resolution was introduced in the General Assembly this morning recognizing that urgent action was needed to stem the illicit conflict diamond trade, and voicing strong support for the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme for rough diamonds, whose implementation began this year on 1 January.
The Kimberley Process was established by southern African diamond-producing countries in 2000 to stem the flow of rough diamonds used by rebels, which had financed armed conflict aimed at overthrowing legitimate governments, and led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in the past decade alone. Among its other objectives, it sought to protect the legitimate diamond industry, upon which many countries depended. That process led to the emergence of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, which is an international certification scheme for rough diamonds, based primarily on national certification schemes and on internationally agreed minimum standards. It was adopted at a ministerial meeting in Interlaken, Switzerland on 5 November 2002.
Introducing the draft resolution entitled "The role of diamonds in fueling conflict: breaking the link between the illicit transaction of rough diamonds and armed conflict as a contribution to prevention and settlement of conflicts", the representative of South Africa, which spearheaded the Kimberley Process, said the road taken had not been easy. Despite reservations, many countries had taken critical decisions in support of the Kimberley Process. Encouraging the text's unanimous adoption next Tuesday, he said he strongly supported the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme as a necessary measure to combating the devastating role of conflict diamonds in fueling conflicts.
The representative of China said he had proposed amendments to the preambular portion of the text, which had been accepted and which had enabled him to join the consensus.
Following introduction of the draft, speakers in the debate united in expressing strong support for the Certification Scheme, which they said was at the forefront of establishing minimum acceptable international standards for the rough diamond trade. It was noted that conflict diamonds represented up to 20 per cent of the annual world total diamond trade. The Kimberley Process, which began as a response of the countries of southern Africa, now involved nearly 50 countries, as well as the European Community, the diamond industry, and civil society.
Rebel groups and warlords had tarnished the image of the diamond industry in Africa, asserted the representative of Botswana, who described his country as the world's largest producer of diamonds by value. The world had witnessed, not only the plunder of the natural resources with little or nothing accruing to the national treasuries, but also gross human rights violations. The horrific scenes of men, women and children with their limbs amputated or hacked to death by "drug-crazed" rebels had aired regularly on television. That had prompted the campaign against the illicit trade, which should have been more careful to protect innocent, legitimate producers, like Namibia and South Africa, which accounted for more than 70 per cent of world production.
Along with spurring gross human rights violations, armed conflicts fueled by the diamond trade impeded the economic development of the countries involved, the Angolan speaker said. Measures to address it should involve all parties, including country producers, processors, exporters and importers. Isolating illicit gem production, however, could only occur when governments disclosed the identities of who was mining the diamonds, and in what capacity, and who was buying and selling them, and in what legal volumes. Such revelations would illuminate irregularities and help to prevent both illicit and conflict diamonds from entering the legitimate market.
In other business today, the Assembly agreed to add an item entitled "Global road safety crisis" to the agenda of its fifty-seventh session, on the recommendation of the General Committee, which discussed the item in a formal meeting yesterday. (For details, please see Press Release GA/10131).
Statements in the general debate were also made by the representatives of Egypt, Israel, Switzerland, Australia, Tunisia, Brazil, Malaysia, Venezuela, Indonesia and Mexico. An observer of the European Community also spoke.
The General Assembly will meet again at a date and time to be announced.
The General Assembly met this morning to consider the role of diamonds in fuelling conflict. It had before it a draft resolution (document A/57/L.76) for action following today's debate. Also before it was a letter dated 29 January from the Permanent Representative of South Africa to the General Assembly President transmitting the final report on the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme for rough diamonds (document A/57/489).
The Kimberley Process was established through initiatives of Southern African diamond-producing countries in 2000 to, among its other objectives, stem the flow of rough diamonds used by rebels to finance armed conflict aimed at overthrowing legitimate governments. It also sought to protect the legitimate diamond industry, upon which many countries depended. It would seek to achieve those aims through the creation of an international certification scheme for rough diamonds, based primarily on national certification schemes and on internationally agreed minimum standards.
Consequently, the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme was adopted at the ministerial meeting held at Interlaken, Switzerland, on 5 November 2002, with implementation starting on 1 January 2003. The South African Government agreed to continue to chair the Kimberley Process during its first year of implementation. The organized diamond industry also announced a voluntary system of self-regulation, which would provide a system of warranties underpinned through verification by independent auditors of individual companies and supported by internal penalties set by the industry. This was aimed at facilitating the full traceability of rough diamond transactions by relevant government authorities and effective implementation of the scheme.
Under the Assembly's adoption on 13 March 2002 of resolution 56/263, the countries participating in the Kimberley Process were asked to submit a report at the fifty-seventh session on progress made regarding implementation of the scheme.
Following its consideration of the role of diamonds in conflict, the Assembly, acting without a vote, adopted a resolution submitted by the South African delegation on breaking the link between the illicit transaction of rough diamonds and armed conflict, as a contribution to conflict prevention and settlement. All States were urged to support efforts of the diamond producing, processing, exporting and importing countries, and the diamond industry was asked to find ways to break that link. The Assembly called for the full implementation of Security Council measures targeting the link between that trade and the supply to rebel movements of weapons, fuel or other prohibited materiel.
The Security Council's most recent action on that question was on 28 January, when it unanimously adopted resolution 1459 (2003). By its terms, the Council expressed its strong support for the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme, as well as the ongoing process to refine and implement the regime, as a valuable contribution against trafficking in conflict diamonds. The Council also stressed that the widest possible participation in the scheme, launched on 1 January, was essential and should be encouraged and facilitated, and urged all Member States to actively participate.
Kimberley Process Report
The report on the Kimberley Process notes the widening of participation in the Scheme, which had been encouraged and facilitated. For example, the Chair had circulated a statement in that regard on 12 December 2002, which formed an integral part of the scheme. All Member States had been notified of the launch of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme in Interlaken on 5 November 2002 and were invited to indicate their interest in participating.
The following States and regional economic integration organizations became participants on 1 January: Angola; Armenia; Australia; Botswana; Brazil; Burkina Faso; Canada; Côte d'Ivoire; Central African Republic; China; Democratic Republic of the Congo; European Community; Gabon; Ghana; Guinea; India; Israel; Japan; Republic of Korea; Lao People's Democratic Republic; Lesotho; Mauritius; Mexico; Namibia; Norway; Philippines; Russian Federation; Sierra Leone; South Africa; Sri Lanka; Swaziland; Switzerland; Thailand; Ukraine; United Arab Emirates; United Republic of Tanzania; United States; Viet Nam and Zimbabwe.
Representatives of the organized diamond industry, notably the World Diamond Council, and civil society organizations remain actively involved in the Kimberley Process and will be attending plenary meetings as observers. Representatives of the United Nations sanctions committees for Angola, Sierra Leone and Liberia, the Monitoring Mechanism on the situation in Angola, as well as the Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the Democratic Republic of the Congo were also invited to attend meetings.
The report stresses that the Kimberley Process is an ongoing international process, aimed at detecting and to preventing the conflict diamonds trade. It recommends that the United Nations take action to support implementation of the scheme as an instrument that would help ensure the effective implementation of the relevant resolutions of the Security Council containing embargoes on the trade in conflict diamonds, which are contributing to the promotion of international peace and security, as well as the relevant General Assembly resolutions. Support for the scheme would also help to promote the legitimate diamond trade, which plays an important part in the economic development worldwide.
Also contained in the report is the final communiqué from the Kimberley Process Meeting, held in Ottawa, Canada from 18 to 20 March 2002, the Interlaken Declaration of 5 November 2002 and a statement by the European Community. It also contains the text of the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme. Sections I through VI concern, respectively: definitions; the Kimberley Process certificate; undertakings in respect of the international trade in rough diamonds; internal controls and principles of industry self-regulation; cooperation and transparency; and administrative matters and support.
According to the draft resolution before the Assembly entitled "The role of diamonds in fuelling conflict: breaking the link between the illicit transaction of rough diamonds and armed conflict as a contribution to prevention and settlement of conflicts" (document A/57/L.76), the Assembly would strongly support the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme and stress that the widest participation in it was essential and should be encouraged and facilitated.
In that connection, the Assembly would urge all Member States to participate actively in the Scheme. It would also note with appreciation the report of the Chair of the Kimberley Process and congratulated the governments, and the representatives of the regional economic integration organizations, the organized diamond industry and civil society participating in the Kimberley Process, on finalizing the Certification Scheme.
It would also welcome the decision to implement the Scheme from 1 January and the willingness expressed by the South African Government to chair the Kimberley Process during its first year of implementation.
The draft resolution is sponsored by Angola, Botswana, Republic of Korea, South Africa, Turkey and the United Kingdom.
Introduction of Draft Resolution
DUMISANI S. KUMALO (South Africa) introduced the draft resolution entitled "The role of diamonds in fueling conflict: breaking the link between the illicit transaction of rough diamonds and armed conflict as a contribution to prevention and settlement of conflicts" (document A/57/L.76), by which the Assembly would strongly support the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme and stress that the widest participation in it was essential and should be encouraged and facilitated.
He said that efforts to curtail conflict diamonds became an international responsibility when the Assembly unanimously adopted resolution 55/56. As in the past two years, he hoped the Assembly would today pass by acclamation the resolution before it. Last year, it welcomed the detailed proposals for an international certification scheme for rough diamonds developed in the Kimberley Process and urged its finalization and subsequent implementation. That began on 1 January and, to date, there were 55 participants.
It was important to acknowledge that the road taken had not been an easy one, he said. Many countries had had to take critical decisions in support of the Kimberley Process despite reservations. The thing that united them was the view that the resolution had contributed to peace and security in the countries where people had lost their lives because of conflict diamonds. Implementation had been gradual. The next plenary meeting of the Kimberley Process would be held in Johannesburg, South Africa, from 28 to 30 April, with a view to addressing implementation issues.
He said that the draft before the Assembly was procedural in nature and had no financial implications. Among other terms, it strongly supported the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme as a necessary measure to combat the devastating role of conflict diamonds in fueling conflicts, in order to promote international peace and security. The Kimberley Process complemented efforts to create and maintain peace and security. For that reason, he encouraged its unanimous adoption.
He announced that the following countries had joined as co-sponsors: Armenia; Australia; Austria; Belgium; Brazil; Burkina Faso; Canada: Central African Republic; Colombia; Costa Rica; Czech Republic; Democratic Republic of the Congo; Finland; France; Germany; Ghana; Greece; Guinea; Hungary; Ireland; Israel; Italy; Japan; Namibia; Netherlands; Norway; Philippines; Poland; Russian Federation; Senegal; Sierra Leone; Spain; Sweden; Switzerland; Tonga; United States; Uruguay; Venezuela; and Ukraine.
AHMED ABOUL GHEIT (Egypt) said the question of conflict diamonds had long been a threat to peace and security. The illicit trade in diamonds was a key element of conflicts in Africa, leading to the total destruction of the economic structures of many States. Those conflicts had propagated beyond State borders and encompassed entire subregions. The human, socio-economic and political costs of blood diamonds were very high. The Kimberley Process represented a system for organized international action under the aegis of the United Nations. The Process reflected the need to attack the roots of conflict. The international community's success in resolving conflict was based on addressing the causes of conflict before they destroyed valuable resources. Without political will, the Process would not be successful.
He said the Kimberley Process was a good example of the participation between the United Nations and its members, as well as between the private sector, the international community and regional organizations. It should be welcomed as an example of complementarity of action under the aegis of the United Nations system in addressing issues of international peace and security. The process reflected the concept of State leadership in achieving, under the United Nations, the success of a process that had faced well-known political and technical difficulties. The results of the Kimberley Process constituted a major success for all parties concerned. The great challenge, however, was ensuring that respect for the criteria set out by the process, which called for regular review of the certification process. The efforts to address African conflict through the Kimberely Process represented an important step in dealing with conflicts on a larger scale.
ZINA KLEITMAN (Israel) commended the international community for its progress made in combating the scourge of conflict diamonds since the inception of the Kimberley Process in 2000. The vast majority of rough diamonds were from legitimate sources and were not blood diamonds. At its peak in 1999, the trade in conflict diamonds accounted for less than 4 per cent of the world's annual rough diamond production. That was no reason for complacency, and the international community must remain committed to introducing measures to protect legitimate channels of distribution from any potential conflict diamond infiltration.
Recognizing that it was a humanitarian issue, she said the devastating impact of conflicts fuelled by the trade in conflict diamonds on the peace, safety and security of people in affected countries should be of grave concern to the international community. Decisive and urgent actions were needed to curb the role of the rough diamond trade in inflaming conflict, thereby preventing the future loss and suffering of innocent civilian populations in Africa. Israel had been committed to the Process since its inception and had proceeded in implementing a system of documenting and monitoring rough diamond traffic to and from Israel. It had also barred trade of rough diamonds with countries that were not participants in the Process. The Israeli Diamond Association had adopted the recommendations of the World Diamond Council, the World Federation of Diamond Burses and the International Diamond Manufacturers Association to implement a System of Warranties for diamonds.
Israel also supported a World Trade Organization waiver relating to the establishment of a certification process preventing trade in conflict diamonds, she said. Israel called on all States to present a united front in the campaign to stop the trade in conflict diamonds, to join the Kimberley Process and to support the adoption in consensus of the draft resolutions before the Assembly today.
ALFRED M. DUBE (Botswana) said that rebel groups and warlords had tarnished the image of the diamond industry in Africa, mostly as a result of the illicit diamond trade. In such conflicts, the world had witnessed not only the plunder of the natural resources, with little or nothing accruing to the national treasuries, but also gross violations of human rights. The horrific scenes of men, women and children hacked to death or with their limbs amputated by drug-crazed rebels were regularly aired on television. That had rightly prompted human rights groups and other activists to campaign against the diamond trade. The campaign also targeted innocent, legitimate producers like Namibia and South Africa, however, which accounted for more than 70 per cent of world production.
He said that Botswana, the world's largest producer of diamonds by value, and the economy most dependent on trade in rough diamonds, would have suffered immeasurably if a consumer boycott had succeeded. The diamond industry contributed directly one-third of his country's gross domestic product, more than half the public revenues, and 80 per cent of its export earnings. The economies of other southern African countries would also have suffered. The Kimberley Process was a response of the three major producers of southern Africa to engage the international community and civil society in the first serious attempt to ban conflict diamonds from the market place. Noble efforts had also been made by other countries to introduce national legislation to ban the importation of what had come to be known as "blood diamonds".
It had always been clear that control of the diamond trade could only succeed if there was an internationally coordinated effort, he said. It was truly remarkable that the negotiators of the Kimberley Process, who started off with widely different interests and solutions to the problem, finally reached consensus on an international certification scheme. The Interlaken Declaration, issued by ministers at their meeting in Switzerland last November, was the outcome of those long and hard negotiations over two years. The campaign to ban the trade in conflict diamonds would only succeed through the effective implementation of the international certification scheme. That was a challenge for the United Nations, and should be backed up by the adoption of national legislation.
BENNO LAGGNER (Switzerland) said conflict diamonds had an important impact on human security and posed a threat to the legal diamond industry. Over the past couple of years, tremendous progress had been achieved, including the adoption of the declaration in Interlaken, Switzerland, in November 2002 which had led to the launch of the international system to certify the origin of rough diamonds. The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme was a response to the requests of the General Assembly and was an instrument that would permit better implementation of sanctions decided by the Security Council. The certification scheme would contribute to efforts to refine and strengthen the sanctions mechanism.
The adoption of the certification scheme was not an end in itself, he said. The same determination must be given to achieving respect for the scheme and its operation. Among the challenges now facing the international community was the need to assure wide participation in the certification scheme, ensuring that it was applied fully by all actors and establishing efficient control mechanisms. Switzerland called on all countries which had until now remained outside of the system to participate in the certification scheme and to ensure its gradual universality.
PETER TESCH (Australia) said that his country, as the largest producer of rough diamonds by volume globally, welcomed the establishment of the Certification Scheme as an essential step towards curbing the trade in conflict diamonds. That would reduce the ability of rebel movements to acquire the arms that had fueled civil wars and conflicts in several Africa nations. He was steadfast in his determination to prevent the devastating impact of such conflicts on the peace, safety and security of people in affected countries and the systematic and gross human rights violations, which had been perpetuated in such conflicts.
He said that on 5 November 2002, Australia had joined with 34 other countries and the European Union in adopting the Certification Scheme for rough diamonds in Interlaken, Switzerland. The full introduction of the Certification Scheme in Australia on 1 January marked two years of collaborative effort by Australian government agencies, the Australian rough diamond industry, and civil society. He welcomed the significant role played by industry groups and non-governmental organizations in the development of the Scheme, which successfully balanced the need to restrict the trade in conflict diamonds with the need to protect and further develop the present legitimate trade in rough diamonds. He urged all States members involved in that trade to join the Certification Scheme without delay.
MOHAMED FADHEL AYARI (Tunisia) welcomed the progress achieved under the Kimberley Process to cut the sources to rebels, to protect the legitimate diamond industry and to set up a Certification Scheme. He also welcomed the decision to apply the certification system, which would help the effective implementation of various General Assembly resolutions calling for sanctions on conflict diamonds. The scheme would only be credible, however, only if it had the necessary political will of all participants. In that regard, he called on all concerned parties to apply the Certification Scheme.
The devastating consequences of conflicts fueled by blood diamonds had never been so harshly felt as in Africa, he said. Blood diamonds were a crucial factor in perpetuating conflicts among many African States and had devastating effects on their economies. It was essential that the resources and the intrinsic potential of the African Continent be devoted to development and the prevention of conflict. He welcomed the adoption of the draft resolution and welcomed the inclusion of the item on the agenda of the Assembly's fifty-eight session.
RONALDO MOTA SARDENBERG (Brazil) said that the negotiation process concluded in Interlaken in November 2002 had been a major achievement in halting the fueling of conflicts through the illegal diamond trade. That had provided a mechanism, that reflected the resolve of the international community to deal with the factors that fueled armed conflicts and stimulated the undermining or overthrowing of legitimate governments, as well as the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, mainly in Africa. As a diamond producer and consumer, Brazil attached great significance to the creation of a certification scheme. It had sought to reduce the role of conflict diamonds in armed conflict, while protecting the legitimate trade in diamonds, which played an important role in economic development.
He said he was confident that the Scheme would help ensure the effective implementation of the relevant resolutions of the Security Council, which had imposed embargoes on the trade in conflict diamonds. Yet, the progress made in creating the Scheme did not change his understanding that the illegal diamond trade represented a stimulus to conflicts, whose deep-rooted causes must be met with equal resolve. He encouraged the widest participation in the Scheme. As stated in the Chairman's report, the Kimberley Process was an ongoing international initiative and would greatly benefit from the broadest participation.
ROSTAM MOHD ISA (Malaysia) noted that significant progress had been achieved so far. The adoption of the Certification Scheme and the decision to implement it from January 2003 was testimony to the international community's strong commitment to combat the trade in blood diamonds. Malaysia supported all efforts to prevent armed conflict. In that regard, it had requested its desire to participate in the Kimberley Process. Malaysia was deeply concerned about the role of the illicit trade in rough diamonds in fuelling conflict, especially in Africa. The countries of Africa needed peace, security and development. Malaysia was alarmed by the impact of the illicit trade in rough diamonds on Africa.
The connection between conflict and trade in blood diamonds should be forever broken, he said. The Kimberley Process Certification Scheme was vital for ensuring effective compliance with relevant Security Council resolutions.
MARIO DE AZEVEDO CONSTANTINO (Angola) said that the armed conflicted fueled by the diamond trade posed an obstacle to the advancement and economic development of the countries involved. It also involved gross violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. The problem of conflict diamonds was of serious international concern, and the measures to address it, therefore, should involve all parties, including producers, processors, exporters and importers. Isolating illicit gem production could only occur when governments in the concerned countries disclosed the identities of who was mining the diamonds, and in what capacity, and who was buying and selling them, and in what legal volumes. Such revelations would illuminate irregularities and help to prevent both illicit and conflict diamonds from entering the legitimate market.
He said his Government had played a "very important" role in the introduction of the Certification Scheme, which should substantially reduce the opportunity for conflict, or rough diamonds to fuel armed conflict. The Kimberley Process was the main international initiative established to develop practical approaches to conflict diamonds, which were used by rebel movements to finance their military activities aimed at overthrowing legitimate governments. By adopting the Certification Scheme, the international community had taken the most far-reaching step towards breaking the link between the illicit transaction of rough diamonds and armed conflict, and the illicit trade and proliferation of small arms and light weapons. The Scheme was a valuable contribution against trafficking in conflict diamonds.
ANGELA CAVALIERE DE NAVA (Venezuela) said her country favoured a broad concept of peace that enabled the international community to address all the factors that promoted conflict, including the illicit trade in diamonds. The Kimberley Process was an initiative in support of peace. She was convinced that the Certification Scheme would become an effective instrument to control and deter the illicit trade in diamonds.
Venezuela supported the Certification Scheme and was implementing the necessary measures for the system's implementation, including the issuance of a provisional certificate, she said. Her Government was currently adjusting its legislation so that the scheme's minimum requirements would comply with domestic law. As a co-sponsor of the draft, she reiterated her country's commitment to concerted efforts to support the Certification Scheme and called on Member States who had not yet done so to participate in it. She reiterated her country's commitment to ensuring the success of the Process.
YURI O. THAMRIN (Indonesia) said that conflict diamonds represented up to 20 per cent of the annual world total diamond trade, and had contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in the past decade alone. That trade had also resulted in huge civilian displacements and a humanitarian crisis wherever such events occurred. The Kimberley Process, which began as a response of the countries of southern Africa, now involved more than 47 governments, as well as the European Community, the diamond industry, and civil society. It was in the forefront of establishing minimum acceptable international standards for national certification schemes related to the rough diamonds trade.
He said he strongly aligned himself with those efforts that were targeted at frustrating those who considered it to be in their selfish interest to inflame political conflict by using the economic power of illicit diamonds. In January, the Security Council had adopted a resolution, which expressed its support for the Certification Scheme. He applauded those strides and wholeheartedly welcomed the Certification Scheme and the voluntary industry self-regulation enshrined in the Interlaken Declaration, under which conflict diamonds were eliminated from international trade, effective 1 January 2003. Broad participation was key to a successfully functioning monitoring process. Unless the Scheme was carefully and closely monitored, it chances of success were rather slim.
ZHANG YISHAN (China) said the Kimberley Process was closely related to discussion on African conflicts in the United Nations and was highly political in nature. In addressing outstanding issues, it was imperative to respect the United Nations Charter, as well as the integrity of Member States.
He then proposed two amendments to the preambular paragraphs of the draft resolution, which he said had been accepted by the co-sponsors of the text. On that basis, China would support the consensus.
DIEGO SIMANCAS (Mexico) said that the creation of the Certification Scheme would contribute to regional stability and the maintenance of international peace and security. He, therefore, appealed for closer communication between the Kimberly Process and the Security Council sanctions committees, especially on Liberia and Sierra Leone. In implementing the Kimberley Process, efforts should be made to achieve broader participation in the Certification Scheme by all importing and exporting countries. He reiterated his recognition of South Africa's achievements in that regard. Mexico would participate actively in the meeting scheduled at the end of the month in Johannesburg.
Ms. JUUL-JORGENSEN, on behalf of the European Community and associated States, said the linkage between the illicit trade in rough diamonds and the fuelling of armed conflicts had been well known for several years. The European Union as a whole had jointly expressed strong support for the Process. As soon as consensus had emerged on the project of a certification scheme for international trade in rough diamonds, the Union had mandated the Commission to negotiate such agreement on behalf of the European Community.
The Certification Scheme would stem the flow of conflict diamonds to a greater extent, she said. The Union hoped that the legitimate diamond industry, upon which many countries depended for their socio-economic development, would also be protected. A chain was as strong as its weakest link. In order for the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme to fulfil its promises, its complete and effective implementation was necessary by all subscribing to it. Further progress could be made to make the Certification Scheme as effective as possible. Regular review of its implementation could contribute to the Scheme's credibility.
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