Tuesday, February 24, 2009

George Clooney Meets With Obama to Discuss Plot to Subvert Sudan Sovereignty

George Clooney meets with President Obama to discuss Darfur trip

February 24, 2009 - 12:40

LOS ANGELES - George Clooney apparently had a good reason for skipping out on Oscar night: he had a meeting with President Barack Obama.

The Oscar-winning actor appeared Monday on CNN's "Larry King Live" and spoke of his visit earlier that morning with Obama to discuss the humanitarian crisis in Sudan's Darfur region.

Clooney said he told the president of his visit to camps in Chad where 250,000 refugees live, but he downplayed the risks he took to witness the suffering firsthand.

"I don't think people should be going there and coming back and saying how it affected them," Clooney told King via satellite from the White House lawn. "I think somehow we should all know that these people are hanging on by the skin of their teeth."

Clooney, a UN Messenger of Peace, said he asked the president to appoint a full-time regional envoy who reports directly to the White House, and to ask China to set aside its business interests in the region and pressure Sudan to prevent atrocities.

The refugees need "what we do best, what we have done best since the start of this country - which is good, robust diplomacy all across the world," he said.

Clooney said he delivered 250,000 postcards gathered by the Save Darfur organization to the president and Vice-President Joe Biden. The actor said both were receptive.

Fighting erupted in 2003 as Darfur's ethnic African rebels took up arms against Sudan's government complaining of discrimination and neglect. Nearly 2.5 million people have been displaced by a conflict that has killed about 300,000 people.

Next week, the International Criminal Court is scheduled to rule on whether to proceed with an arrest warrant for Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for crimes in Darfur.

Clooney said his latest visit - his sixth to Darfur and Chad - was privately arranged. He travelled with journalists, including the New York Times' Nicholas Kristof and NBC's Ann Curry, but the Sudanese government denied him a visa.

The 47-year-old actor also confirmed that he was going to appear in the last episode of NBC's "ER" with Julianna Margulies. "So it should be fun," Clooney said.

Militia fights South Sudan army

South Sudan's army and militiamen have exchanged heavy gunfire in the town of Malakal, according to local officials and eyewitnesses.

It reportedly involves the southern army and a militia led by Gabriel Tang, who was backed by Khartoum during Sudan's 21-year north-south civil war.

Fighting between South Sudan's army and elements in the Tang militia killed 150 people in Malakal in 2006.

A BBC correspondent says tensions between north and south remain high.

The BBC's Peter Martell in the South Sudan capital Juba adds that the former civil war adversaries clashed last year in flashpoint border areas.

The north-south conflict cost an estimated 1.5 million lives and ended in 2005 with the setting up of an autonomous secular government in the south.

"This [fighting] is because Tang arrived yesterday in Malakal. The UN tried to persuade him to leave but he refused," southern army commander James Hoth told Reuters news agency on Tuesday.


He said southern army soldiers from a special joint unit of both northern and southern troops stationed in Malakal under the peace accord were involved in the fighting.

But it was not immediately clear if any northern forces had joined in the clashes.

An eyewitness told Reuters he had seen tanks on the streets of the town.

South Sudan Information Minister Gabriel Changson Cheng said the fire-fight had been on and off all day and there was no official confirmation of any deaths as yet.

The confrontation came as Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir made a rare visit to the south's capital.

The International Criminal Court will announce on 4 March whether it is to indict him for alleged war crimes committed in the separate conflict in the western region of Darfur - a move correspondents fear could worsen the fighting in Darfur and even drag South Sudan back to war.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2009/02/24 17:34:15 GMT

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