George Clooney named U.N. messenger of peace

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon named actor George Clooney, who has campaigned for refugees in Darfur, as a U.N. “messenger of peace” on Friday to promote the world body’s peacekeeping efforts.

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Clooney is the ninth U.N. messenger -- people chosen from the fields of art, music, literature and sports who have agreed to help focus attention on the United Nations’ work.

U.N. spokeswoman Michele Montas said Clooney would have a special emphasis on peacekeeping. She said he had been “recognized for focusing public attention on crucial international political and social issues.”

Clooney, who is currently in Sudan, will receive his designation on January 31 at U.N. headquarters.

With fellow actors Don Cheadle and Brad Pitt, Clooney, 46, has used his celebrity status to raise money for refugees through their “Not On Our Watch” charity and draw attention to the crisis in Darfur in western Sudan.

The United Nations is trying to deploy a peacekeeping force in Darfur, where international experts say some 200,000 people have been killed and more than 2 million driven from their homes in fighting between Sudan’s government and Darfur rebels.

Clooney has starred in a number of films with political themes and won an Oscar in 2005 for his role in “Syriana.”

Last month, he and Cheadle were honored by Nobel peace laureates in Rome for their efforts in Darfur.

The other U.N. messengers of peace are actor Michael Douglas, musicians Daniel Barenboim, Midori Goto and Yo-Yo Ma, authors Paulo Coelho and Elie Wiesel, naturalist Jane Goodall and Olympic equestrian Princess Haya of Jordan.

The program was started by Ban’s predecessor, Kofi Annan, in 1998.

Additional reporting by Bob Tourtellotte in Los Angeles, editing by Doina Chiacu