Clooney's DC blitz on Sudan reaches Oval Office

Associated Press
Actor George Clooney walks to talk with reporters outside the White House in Washington, Thursday, March 15, 2012, after a meeting with President Barack Obama. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
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WASHINGTON (AP) — George Clooney's capital blitz to bring attention to the humanitarian crisis in border regions between Sudan and South Sudan arrived at the Oval Office on Thursday, and the actor said he came away from a meeting President Barack Obama encouraged that there is high-level interest in doing more to help a region that soon could suffer mass starvation.

Clooney, whose visit to Washington has drawn outsized press coverage at every turn, said he was optimistic that Obama would press Chinese President Hu Jintao to join international efforts to bring peace to the ravaged region when the two meet later this month on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit in South Korea.

"The good news for us is we feel like there's a commitment at a high level" to address the Sudanese situation, Clooney told reporters after his meeting with the president. He added that he sensed "great interest in working with China."

Clooney, just back from an eight-day trip to the region, met with Obama for 15 minutes in the Oval Office.

The actor was questioned about why he would hold out hope for cooperation from China on Sudan when Beijing hasn't been helpful on Syria, protecting the repressive regime there from censure by the U.N. Security Council. Clooney said energy-hungry China, which receives about 6 percent of its oil from Sudan, has an economic incentive to work to bring peace to the region.

Oil-rich South Sudan and Sudan, the keeper of the pipelines, have been at odds over oil and profits. Exports have stopped, putting pressure on oil prices worldwide.

"Suddenly, this affects their economy," Clooney said of China. "This is a moment we can appeal to China."

Clooney said it was imperative for the world to move swiftly to open a humanitarian corridor to those in need.

"When the rainy season starts, it is impossible to get through," Clooney said. "There is a very, very great possibility of a lot of people starving in the next few months."

The A-list celebrity made it clear that his role is to shine a light on the situation, not to solve it.

"I don't make policy," Clooney said. "All I really can do is amplify the situation and help to bring a spotlight to it."

The large contingent of reporters that gathered to hear the Oscar-winning actor at the White House was evidence that he was succeeding at that.

Clooney acknowledged it is "a very complicated time in the world" with lots of problems competing for attention.

But he said this was a "crucial moment" to bring attention to the plight of those suffering in Sudan.

Clooney was on Capitol Hill to testify about the same issues on Wednesday, and turned up that night at the head table for the Obamas' state dinner honoring British Prime Minister David Cameron.

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