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 Monday, 16 December, 2002, 11:48 GMT
Sean Penn urges peace with Iraq
Sean Penn in Baghdad children's hospital
Penn is "concerned by the lack of information" about Iraq
Hollywood star Sean Penn is visiting Baghdad to seek a greater understanding of the issues behind the current crisis.

If there is going to be blood on my hands, I didn't want that blood to be invisible

Sean Penn
He said he found it "baffling" that US officials had not revealed more evidence of their suspicions that Iraq has programmes to develop weapons of mass destruction.

The US actor and director said he did not want to criticise governments or presidents, but he was concerned at the lack of information being given to the American public.

On his three-day visit to Iraq, he has met Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz, visited a water treatment plant and toured a children's hospital.

He told the BBC's Rageh Omar: "I do feel an obligation to take responsibility with my government for actions that it takes.

"On the brink of actions that are threatened here, I am determined that if there is going to be... blood on my hands, that I didn't want that blood to be invisible. I wanted it to have the face of the people that I saw here."

He said he was acting as an individual, but that many more people in the US agreed with his stance.

I needed to come here and see a smile, to see a street

Sean Penn
"I made the decision to come here on my own, I was invited by an American institution," he said.

"I'm glad that I did come and part of my concern is being duped by a media perspective that saturates us every day."

War could be avoided, he said - but only with an "enormous commitment" from the Iraqi Government as well as the United States.

He said asking questions was vital before the start of any conflict.

Hollywood backing

Penn said at a press conference he wanted to know why there had not been more discussion of the type of technology available to detect components which could be used for weapons of mass destruction.

"I think that the more information we push for, the more information we are given, the better off we are all going to be and the right thing will happen," he said.

The former celebrity "bad boy" said he wanted to learn more about Iraq on his trip to Baghdad, which was arranged by the Institute for Public Accuracy, a consortium of policy researchers.

"I needed to come here and see a smile, to see a street, to smell the smells, talk to the people and take that home with me," he said.

Other American show-business stars such as Martin Sheen and Kim Basinger signed an open letter earlier this month which said rigorous inspections - not war - were the best way to disarm Iraq.

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  Sean Penn
"Part of my concern is being duped by a media perspective that saturates us every day"

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11 Sep 02 | Entertainment
16 Aug 02 | Entertainment
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