The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Penn looking for Iraq insights

Baghdad, Dec. 13 (Reuters): US actor and director Sean Penn, starting a three-day visit to Baghdad, said today he wanted more insight into “this frightening conflict”.

The former Hollywood bad boy and Oscar nominee, who paid for a $56,000 advertisement in the Washington Post in October accusing US President George W. Bush of stifling debate over Iraq, visited a Baghdad hospital.

“As a father, an actor, a film-maker and patriot, my visit to Iraq is for me a natural extension of my obligation... to find my own voice on matters of conscience,” Penn, once married to pop diva Madonna, said in a statement issued by the Institute of Public Accuracy.

The institute is a US organisation of policy analysts with offices in Washington and San Francisco. “I have the privileged opportunity to pursue a deeper understanding of this frightening conflict,” Penn said.

The US has threatened to go to war with Iraq unless it abandons its alleged weapons of mass destruction. Penn’s advertisement in the Washington Post took the form of an open letter to Bush in which he urged the president to stop a cycle 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 said.

More than 100 other celebrities spoke out against a possible US attack on Iraq, signing an open letter this week which said rigorous UN inspections were the best way to disarm Iraq, not war.

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