Hollywood star Sean Penn visits children's hospital in Baghdad
US actor and filmmaker Sean Penn has visited a children's hospital in Baghdad on the first day of a visit to Iraq to forge "a deeper understanding of the conflict."
The Hollywood star stayed for one-and-a-half hours in al-Mansur Hospital, visiting many child leukaemia victims and premature babies.
He talked to the doctors and took pictures but made no comment to the press, explaining he wished to avoid public exposure and focus on understanding the conflict.
Iraqi officials have accused the United States of using bombs and missiles containing depleted uranium during the 1991 Gulf War, causing many people to develop fatal diseases.
His three-day visit to Iraq was announced on Friday in a press release from the Institute of Public Accuracy, a US organisation of policy analysts that organised the trip.
"By the invitation of the Institute for Public Accuracy, I have the privileged opportunity to pursue a deeper understanding of this frightening conflict," Sean Penn said in the press release.
"I would hope that all Americans will embrace information available to them outside conventional channels.
"As a father, an actor, a filmmaker and a patriot, my visit to Iraq is for me a natural extension of my obligation to find my own voice on matters of conscience."
In October, Sean Penn addressed an open letter to US President George W Bush asking him to give UN weapons inspectors a chance to prove Iraq has no banned weapons.
Dec 14th, 2002, 02:26 AM
Sean Penn Preaches Peace
by Lia Haberman
Dec 13, 2002, 4:30 PM PT
Sean Penn: actor, director...diplomat?!
The former Hollywood hothead, who's slugged his fair share of shutterbugs, is now directing his energy toward the Middle East peace process.
Penn arrived in Baghdad today on a three-day fact-finding mission to "pursue a deeper understanding of this frightening conflict," the 42-year-old said via a statement released by the Institute for Public Accuracy.
"As a father, an actor, a filmmaker, and a patriot, my visit to Iraq is for me a natural extension of my obligation to find my own voice on matters of conscience," said the famously anti-establishment thespian.
Penn has been openly critical of the current administration's hostile approach to Iraq. Last month, Penn paid $56,000 to publish a letter to President Bush in the Washington Post in which he appealed to the Prez as a fellow patriot and family man.
"That bombing is answered by bombing, mutilation by mutilation, killing by killing, is a pattern that only a great country like ours can stop," wrote the actor, who signed the missive: "Sincerely, Sean Penn, San Francisco, California.".
As for his current visit, it's not a soft-core photo op. While in Baghdad, Penn's plans include visiting a children's hospital, attending an event at a water-treatment facility and meeting with Iraqi officials. "I wouldn't exactly call it sightseeing," said Norman Solomon, Penn's guide in Baghdad and the Institute for Public Accuracy's executive director. The pair is staying at the Al-Rasheed Hotel, the main hotel for foreigners and journalists in Baghdad.
The trip, which is being described as a goodwill mission, was sponsored by the institute, a Washington think tank that analyzes public policy. Penn's full statement is available online at the organization's Website, www.accuracy.org.
Penn, who shot to fame as stoned surfer Jeff Spicoli in Fast Times at Ridgemont High, urged all Americans to "embrace information available to them outside conventional channels." Those unable to jet off to the Middle East should "participate in whatever way," they can, said Penn's publicist, Mara Buxbaum. Not only is "this an issue he cares deeply about," explained Buxbaum, "we should all be concerned, it affects all of us."
Penn isn't the only star sending a message to Washington. On Tuesday, The West Wing's Martin Sheen joined with other activist-minded entertainers to urge the President not to go to war. More than a hundred performers signed the petition, which warned that "a preemptive military invasion of Iraq will harm American national interests. It will make us less, not more secure."
Dec 14th, 2002, 05:34 AM
I've got much love for Sean Penn. I applaud his efforts.
Dec 14th, 2002, 05:36 AM
I like Sean P too!! Can't believe he used to be married to Madonna!
Dec 14th, 2002, 07:45 AM
Hollywood rebel flies into Baghdad
Rory McCarthy in Baghdad
Saturday December 14, 2002
The Hollywood actor and director Sean Penn flew into Baghdad yesterday on a three-day visit to warn that a war with Iraq would be "frightening".
Penn, the former husband of Madonna and an Oscar nominee, spent yesterday afternoon touring the poorly equipped children's wards at al-Mansour hospital on the banks of the Tigris in the capital.
The trip, he said, was an attempt to understand the growing threat of war in Iraq. "As a father, an actor, a film-maker and a patriot my visit to Iraq is for me a natural extension of my obligation to find my own voice on matters of conscience."
"I have a privileged opportunity to pursue a deeper understanding of this frightening conflict."
Penn's visit completes his transformation from Hollywood bad boy to anti-war activist.
In October, he paid $56,000 (£35,000) to place an advertisement in the Washington Post against a war with Iraq.
It contained an open letter to George Bush in which he accused the US president of trying to suffocate the debate over the Iraq crisis.
He decried a cycle of foreign policy where "bombing is answered by bombing, mutilation by mutilation, killing by killing".
"Sacrificing American soldiers or innocent civilians in an unprecedented pre-emptive attack on a separate sovereign nation may well prove itself a most temporary medicine," he wrote.
Penn, who travelled to Iraq with the Washington-based Institute of Public Accuracy, is staying at al-Rashid hotel, where in the lobby a mosaic of a grimacing, toothless George Bush senior is displayed above the words: "Bush is criminal."
Penn's trip may result in a fine from the US government, which bans its citizens, apart from journalists, from visiting Iraq.
He also adds his name to an eclectic list of visitors to Iraq, including the rebel Labour MP George Galloway, the Austrian far-right politican Jörg Haider, and, most recently, the former Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda.
Hollywood's Penn Preaches Peace in Iraq
Actor Sean Penn Visits Iraq to Campaign for Peace as U.N. Inspectors Hunt for Weapons
The Associated Press
BAGHDAD, Iraq Dec. 15 —
U.N. inspectors hunted for weapons of mass destruction at missile plants and nuclear complexes Sunday, while an unusual visitor Hollywood star Sean Penn spoke out in Baghdad against a U.S. attack and in support of the Iraqi people caught up in an international crisis.
In Berlin, meanwhile, the German defense ministry said the United Nations had asked it to supply the inspection operation with unmanned spy aircraft to help in the search for banned Iraqi weapons or the facilities to make them.
A decision on whether to supply the LUNA drones and the technicians needed to maintain them likely will be made this week, said a ministry spokesman on customary condition of anonymity. German-U.S. relations were strained over Berlin's opposition to attacking Saddam Hussein, but Berlin has pledged full support for the inspection program.
Penn issued his comments at the end of a three-day visit to Iraq which was organized by the Institute for Public Accuracy, a research organization based in San Francisco, California.
"Simply put, if there is a war or continued sanctions against Iraq, the blood of Americans and Iraqis alike will be on our (American) hands," Penn said at a news conference in the Iraqi capital Sunday.
U.N. inspectors hunting for banned weapons of mass destruction searched a missile plant south of Baghdad that the United States said had aroused suspicion. It was one of ten sites the newly bolstered inspection team visited Sunday, according to Iraqi government officials and a statement by U.N. inspectors' headquarters in Baghdad.
With the arrival of 15 inspectors Sunday and the routine departure of others in recent days, the total of U.N. sleuths now stands at 105, said Hiro Ueki, a spokesman for the U.N. program in Baghdad. On Saturday, the teams visited a dozen sites, a number Ueki said was the largest single-day site visitation since the inspectors returned to Iraq on Nov. 27 after a four-year hiatus.
The sites visited Sunday included al-Mutasim, a government missile plant occupying the grounds of a former nuclear facility 46 miles south of Baghdad, the inspectors said. As usual, they offered no details about what they sought or found.
Al-Mutasim was cited in a CIA intelligence report released in October that detailed what U.S. officials said was evidence Iraq was producing chemical and biological weapons and the means to deliver them. The report also cited the facility for as a site where Iraq might be trying to build nuclear weapons.
Iraqi officials said the inspectors also revisited al-Qa'qaa, a large nuclear complex just south of Baghdad, Sunday that had been searched Saturday and last week as well. The site had been under U.N. scrutiny in the 1990s and was involved in the final design of Iraq's nuclear weapons ambitions before it was destroyed by U.N. teams after the 1991 Gulf War.
The United Nations offered no details on Sunday's inspection at al-Qa'qaa. During their Saturday visit, inspectors said the question the director of the facility about changes made since teams were last in Iraq four years ago. Last week the teams began taking an inventory of nuclear materials still at the site.
Also Sunday, the inspectors returned to a missile complex north of Baghdad for the second time in two days. The complex, the government-owned al-Nasr Company, 30 miles north of Baghdad, also houses sophisticated machine tools that can, for example, help manufacture gas centrifuges. Such centrifuges are used to enrich uranium to bomb-grade level a method that was favored by the Iraqis in their nuclear weapons program of the late 1980s.
Haithem Shihab, manager of a factory in al-Nasr, said the inspectors compared the facility to site plans and checked machinery.
"Today's inspection went smoothly, and we provided the inspectors with all the information they asked for. They entered all the places they wanted. We answered all questions. They made sure that there are no prohibited activities in this factory," Shihab said Sunday.
Shihab said his factory produced parts for missiles with a range no greater than 43 miles. Under U.N. resolutions, Iraq is limited to missiles with a range of no greater than 90 miles.
Also Sunday, International Atomic Energy Agency experts on the U.N. team inspected Um-Al Maarek Mother of Battles a government facility 12 miles south of Baghdad. Nuclear experts visited the site the first time Nov. 30. It is run by the government's Military Industrialization Commission in charge of weapons development.
In the first round of inspections in the 1990s, after Iraq's defeat in the Gulf War, the United Nations destroyed tons of Iraqi chemical and biological weapons and dismantled Iraq's nuclear weapons program but inspectors do not believe they got all Iraq's banned arsenal.
The inspectors are back under a tough U.N. resolution passed last month that threatens serious consequences if Iraq fails to prove it has surrendered all its banned weapons. The United States already has expressed skepticism at the voluminous Iraqi weapons declaration filed Dec. 8.
Dec 16th, 2002, 06:41 AM
Dec 16th, 2002, 06:55 AM
Penn is "concerned by the lack of information" about Iraq
Hollywood actor visits Baghdad, condemns war
Hollywood actor Sean Penn has questioned his government's refusal to release evidence it says proves Iraq has weapons of mass destruction.
Penn is on a three-day visit to Baghdad on behalf of the California-based Institute of Public Accuracy.
Over the weekend he met with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, who welcomed the actor's "opposition to all wars and all forms of aggression."
In his own appearance on American television, Mr Aziz repeated his claim that weapons inspectors will not find any weapons of mass destruction, because his country simply does not have any.
"We hope that the American Government when knowing the truth, if it has real suspicions, they will stop this warmongering policy against Iraq and they will allow the lifting of sanctions."