Clooney: Not Enough Being Done in Darfur

The Associated Press
Friday, December 15, 2006; 6:10 PM

UNITED NATIONS -- Actor George Clooney expressed frustration Friday over the lack of action to end the conflict in the war-torn Darfur region of Sudan.

"I wish we could stand here today and say that everything is moving forward. It's not," Clooney said during a U.N. news conference. "There are talks and more talks about who started the fight, who's responsible and who's to blame and the only people (who) didn't start this fight, are not responsible and are not to blame suffer and die."

The Oscar winner met U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Friday to brief him about the delegation he led to China and Egypt, which included actor Don Cheadle, American speed skater Joey Cheek and Kenyan Olympian Tegla Loroupe. The four later gave an interview to The Associated Press.

All four have been to Sudan at different times and Clooney said they spoke not just as "concerned citizens," but as witnesses.

"All of us can report that the situation is at best grave and about to get much worse _ 2.5 million refugees with now almost no aid, no protection, no hope," Clooney said. "They are all alone, and workers are leaving, are being kicked out on a massive scale, leaving these people their last great task _ watching their families die one by one."

More than 200,000 people have been killed and about 2.5 million people displaced in three years of fighting in Darfur between African rebels and government troops allied with Arab militia known as janjaweed.

The Sudanese government is accused of unleashing the janjaweed, which Khartoum denies. An undermanned African Union peacekeeping force has struggled to prevent violence in Darfur and the Sudanese government has opposed allowing a joint U.N.-AU force into the region.

China, which has close ties to Sudan's government and is one of the country's biggest oil customers, has also resisted U.N. attempts to force Sudan to accept peacekeepers in Darfur.

Cheadle said Beijing's record on human rights was "very dodgy to say the least" and called on China _ the host of the 2008 Olympics _ to live up to the ideals of the games.

"We want to encourage them, to say: 'This is an opportunity where you can step out and be a leader in effecting change in an area where they have a high level of influence,'" he said.

Cheadle, who starred in the film "Hotel Rwanda" about the Rwandan genocide, said working on the movie did not prepare him for what he saw when he visited Sudan.

"Nothing can prepare you when you fly over a camp that stretches as far as you can see and you touch down and walk in this camp and you see starving children and women who repeatedly tell the same stories about being raped and how they were forced to witness their husbands being executed," he told The Associated Press.

© 2006 The Associated Press