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Last Updated: Tuesday, 11 March 2008, 06:05 GMT
Clooney presses Olympic sponsor
George Clooney
Clooney was made a UN peace ambassador earlier this year
Hollywood superstar George Clooney is putting pressure on one of the main Olympic sponsors to speak out over China's foreign policy.

Clooney - who is a critic of China's role in the Darfur crisis in Sudan - advertises Omega Watches, one of the worldwide partners for Beijing 2008.

"I have talked with Omega (about China) for over a year and will continue to talk to Omega," Clooney told BBC Sport.

"I have and will go to the places I and China do business and ask for help."

The 46-year-old's intervention follows the decision of US film director Steven Spielberg to withdraw as an artistic adviser to the Beijing Games in protest at the situation in Darfur.

At least 200,000 people have been killed and two million forced from their homes in the five-year conflict in Sudan.

We are proud to work with a person who has such high ethical views (but) it is our policy not to get involved in politics

Omega spokesman

China has been criticised for its trade and military links with the Sudanese Government, which has been accused of backing militias that have raped and murdered in Darfur.

In a statement issued to BBC Sport, Clooney added: "Last year I took Olympic athletes Joey Cheek and Tegla Loroupe to Beijing to meet with the heads of the Chinese Government.

"I have and will continue to ask China to use its considerable leverage with the Government of Sudan."

Omega Watches is one of 12 "worldwide Olympic partners" for Beijing and has been the official timekeeper for every Olympics since 1932.

The company lists Clooney - an award-winning actor, director, producer and screenwriter - as an "ambassador" for its brand on its official website.

Nick Hayek, the chief executive of the Swatch Group which owns Omega, told BBC Sport: "We have indeed discussed this issue with Mr 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.

Omega's countdown clock in Tiananmen Square
Omega's huge countdown clock in Beijing's Tiananmen Square

"It is our policy not to get involved in politics because it would not serve the cause of the sport which is one most noble human endeavours for creating understanding and peace all over the world.

"This was also the reason that we were present in Moscow during the 1980 Olympics despite the boycott by the western world, and we provided our services to the athletes during the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles when the Communist bloc boycotted the Games.

"Our role with our 300 on-site timekeepers was always clear of politics. We are partners of the athletes and the IOC, not of Governments."

When asked whether Omega would speak out on China's association with the Sudanese Government, Hayek said: "Of course, it is a continuous process but we do it the Swiss way of 'little strokes fell great oaks'.

"We make our point directly to our high-level contacts and not by jumping in at every headline."

Hayek also confirmed that Omega will continue to monitor the situation in Darfur and China's involvement.



SEE ALSO
China 'regrets' Spielberg action
14 Feb 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Spielberg in Darfur snub to China
13 Feb 08 |  Asia-Pacific
UN gives actor Clooney peace role
01 Feb 08 |  Entertainment
Clooney becomes UN peace activist
19 Jan 08 |  Entertainment


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