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Actor George Clooney Becomes UN Peace Envoy


Oscar-winning actor George Clooney turned the normally staid United Nations upside down on Thursday when he visited the headquarters to become a U.N. Messenger of Peace. VOA's Margaret Besheer reports from the U.N. that the American celebrity is well-known for his work as a human rights activist on Darfur.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon enlisted George Clooney as a Messenger of Peace for his ability to raise awareness about critical issues.

The U.N. chief bestows the title of Messenger of Peace for an initial period of three years on prominent personalities willing to volunteer their time and talent to promote U.N.'s global peace efforts.

There was no doubt at U.N. headquarters on Thursday that the American actor can draw a crowd.

For the last few years, Clooney has been a passionate activist about the conflict in Sudan's war-torn Darfur region. In his new U.N. capacity, he will have a special focus on peacekeeping.

He just returned from a two-week trip to Sudan, Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo with the U.N.'s Assistant Secretary-General of Peacekeeping Operations Jane Holl Lute. He told reporters the U.N has an important role to play in the crisis, and spoke about an experience he had while on his trip.

"When I stood in the hospital next to women who had been raped and set on fire two days earlier, they looked up to me and said, 'Please send the U.N.' - not the U.S., not China, not Russia - just the U.N. You are their only hope," he said.

In Darfur, Clooney said the Sudanese government tried, but failed, to show them that the international community had treated the government unfairly and accusations of atrocities are exaggerated.

"Let us be clear, as we traveled to north, south and west Darfur - in el-Fasher, Nyala and Zalengi - there was not one man, woman or child at any of these camps, at any of these locations who did not hold the government of Sudan or its Janjaweed-supported militia responsible for them being displaced," he added. "Not one."

Clooney also touched on the issue of equipment - particularly the need for helicopters - for the newly deployed African Union-U.N. peacekeeping force in Darfur. He said the vast country lacks sufficient roads and helicopters are badly needed and urged member states to equip the troops properly.

He said there is only one chance to get it right in Darfur and only the United Nations can help on this scale. Clooney said he is proud to be a messenger of peace and that his message is: "the world is watching and you cannot afford to fail."