Zwick's Diamond Row With Russell Simmons

BLOOD DIAMOND director ED ZWICK has accused rap mogul RUSSELL SIMMONS of being a PR spokesperson for the diamond industry in Africa. Zwick's new film explores how diamond money is used to finance conflict in the continent. Simmons, recently returned from a fact-finding mission to South Africa and Botswana paid for by the Diamond Information Center, claims conditions have improved and the sale of diamonds to fund war has dropped to just one per cent since a new process was established in 2003. But Zwick insists Simmons has been hoodwinked. He tells the New York Daily News "I find it embarrassing for Russell Simmons. "That number comes from diamonds that are mined in countries that are 'war-declared.' Conflict diamonds are also mined in countries where there is not a 'declared war.' If you want to know about conflict diamonds, you don't go to Botswana and South Africa. You go to Sierra Leone and Angola. Russell Simmons is being embarrassed." Simmons, however, insists he is not being bought out by diamond giant DeBeers, which supplies all his jewels. His says, "To suggest I'm a sellout is wrong. I'm not here to defend the past of these companies. I'm here to talk about the current reality. Diamonds pay for education and medical treatment in Africa." He also accuses the movie of "scaring people away from diamonds. That's why NELSON MANDELA sent a message to Warner Bros reminding them that Africans are depending on diamonds to rebuild their countries."


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