George Clooney comes calling as latest UN peace messenger

New Delhi, Jan 29 The national capital saw some Hollywood glamour as Oscar winner George Clooney accompanied UN Assistant Secretary for Peacekeeping Operations Jane Holl Lute on her visit to India.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008 | 11:32:38 AM IST (+05:30 GMT)
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New Delhi, Jan 29 (IANS) The national capital saw some Hollywood glamour as Oscar winner George Clooney accompanied UN Assistant Secretary for Peacekeeping Operations Jane Holl Lute on her visit to India.

Although the award season is in full swing in Hollywood and his film 'Michael Clayton' is garnering several nominations, Clooney visited India as part of his new role as a UN messenger of peace, with special emphasis on peacekeeping.

While his selection as a messenger was announced in December 2007, the status will be officially conferred on him Jan 31 in a special ceremony at the UN headquarters in New York.

On Monday night, Clooney attended a party hosted by Vivek Katju, the foreign ministry's additional secretary (international organisations), at Villa Medici in the Taj Mahal hotel.

Well cosseted with his own security detail, as well as an entourage, he dropped in next door to shake hands with some journalists.

In a casual grey suit, with an open-necked white shirt, Clooney lived up to his suave leading-man image.

Clooney has been actively involved in calling for a solution to Sudan's Darfur crisis. He travelled to China and Egypt in 2006, when he asked these countries for greater pressure on the Sudanese government to force them to find some way out of the refugee problem. It could not be, however, learnt if he will bring up the issue of Darfur with his Indian hosts, with India having considerable oil interests in the African country.

When told that he seemed to be on his way to politics, just like former US president Ronald Reagan, Clooney looked suitably aghast. 'Oh no! I am a liberal,' he said.

Another question on his favourite for the US presidential race was met with a not-so-subtle answer. 'I had supported Obama in the senate race,' he said. His support for Democrat presidential candidate contender Barack Obama has been no secret - having supported him enthusiastically at various forums and described him as an 'impressive' candidate.

With 9,357 troops engaged in UN missions, India is the third largest supplier of peacekeepers, behind Pakistan (10,610) and Bangladesh (9,856). India also hosts the secretariat of the International Association of Peacekeeping Training Centres at the United Service Institution of India's Centre for United Nations Peacekeeping (USI-CUNPK).

Clooney said he was too new to the job of a UN messenger of peace to talk about it.

'I do not want to talk, I want to listen first,' he said, as he pointed out that he was the 'son of a newsman'. He then swept out as smoothly as he had come in, smiling with the familiar crease on his forehead.

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