Hollywood star George Clooney puts pressure on Olympic sponsor over Darfur

By The Associated Press

LONDON – George Clooney has put pressure on an Olympic sponsor to speak out over China’s foreign policy in Sudan.

The Hollywood star promotes Omega Watches – one of the worldwide Olympic partners for the Beijing games.

“I have talked with Omega (about China) for over a year and will continue to talk to Omega,” Clooney was quoted as saying on the BBC Web site on Tuesday. “I have and will go to the places I and China do business and ask for help.”

Clooney has publicly spoken several times about the crisis in Darfur, Sudan, where more than 200,000 people have been killed and about 2.5 million people displaced in three years of fighting between African rebels and government troops allied with Arab militia known as janjaweed.

China is a major trading partner with Sudan, and Beijing has resisted United Nations attempts to force Sudan to accept U.N. peacekeepers in Darfur.

The push to link the Beijing Games to the Darfur crisis gained wide attention last month when Hollywood director Steven Spielberg said he could not in good conscience serve as an artistic adviser to the opening and closing ceremonies.

“I have and will continue to ask China to use its considerable leverage with the government of Sudan.”

Omega has been the official timekeeper for the Olympics since 1932 – including the boycotted games in 1980 and 1984. Swatch Group chief executive Nick Hayek, whose company owns Omega, said executives had discussed the issue with Clooney.

“We have full respect for his strong engagement in the fight for the good cause and share his opinion, especially concerning Darfur, and we are proud to work with a person who has such high ethical views,” Hayek was quoted as telling the BBC.

“It is our policy not to get involved in politics,” he was quoted as saying, because it would not serve the cause of sport, which he called one of the noblest human endeavors “for creating understanding and peace all over the world.”

Hayek said Omega would speak out on China’s association with Sudan, but directly with high-level contacts rather than publicly.

“Of course, it is a continuous process but we do it the Swiss way of ‘little strokes fell great oaks,'” Hayek said.