George Clooney in Delhi, visits South Block

IANS | By, New Delhi
Jan 29, 2008 06:34 PM IST

The otherwise dull corridors of the defence ministry office in South Block sparkled with stardust when George Clooney called on Defence Secretary Vijay Singh along with UN official Jane Holl Lute.

The otherwise dull corridors of the defence ministry office in South Block sparkled with stardust on Tuesday when Hollywood star George Clooney called on Defence Secretary Vijay Singh along with UN Assistant Secretary General for Peacekeeping Operations Jane Holl Lute.

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Although the award season is in full swing in Hollywood and his film "Michael Clayton" is garnering several nominations, Clooney is visiting India as part of his new role as a UN messenger of peace, with special emphasis on peacekeeping.

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Lute and Clooney are coming from Africa, where they saw Indian blue helmets in action in Congo.

A statement issued by the defence ministry said that Lute appreciated the role played by Indian peacekeepers around the world and hoped that India would take part in the Contingent Owned Equipment Manual Review Exercise to be held in New York Feb 4-22.

Vijay Singh in turn assured the American guests that India would send a high-level team to the New York meeting at both the technical and working levels.

The two visitors were also given a presentation on the experiences of the Indian contingent of peacekeepers that have returned from missions abroad.

Lute also showed interest in the training imparted to the Indian peacekeepers to orient them to handle challenges in alien territories.

But it was Clooney who attracted all the curiosity, even from normally blasé journalists.

On Monday night, Clooney attended a party hosted by Vivek Katju, the foreign ministry's additional secretary (international organisations), at Villa Medici in the Taj Mahal hotel.

Well cosseted with his own security detail, as well as an entourage, he dropped in next door to shake hands with some journalists.

In a casual grey suit, with an open-necked white shirt, Clooney lived up to his suave leading-man image.

When told that he seemed to be on his way to politics, just like former US president Ronald Reagan, Clooney looked suitably aghast. "Oh no! I am a liberal," he said.

Another question on his favourite for the US presidential race was met with a not-so-subtle answer. "I had supported Obama in the Senate race."

His support for Democrat presidential candidate contender Barack Obama has been no secret - having supported him enthusiastically at various forums and described him as an "impressive" candidate.

Clooney said he was too new to the job of a UN messenger of peace to talk about it.

"I do not want to talk, I want to listen first," he said, as he pointed out that he was the "son of a newsman". He then swept out as smoothly as he had come in, smiling with the familiar crease on his forehead.

With 9,357 troops engaged in UN missions, India is the third largest supplier of peacekeepers behind Pakistan (10,610) and Bangladesh (9,856).

India also hosts the secretariat of the International Association of Peacekeeping Training Centres at the United Service Institution of India's Centre for United Nations Peacekeeping (USI-CUNPK).

Earlier Monday, Clooney and the UN assistant secretary general visited the 50 Para Regiment at Agra and the South-Western Army Command Headquarters at Jaipur.

Clooney has been actively involved in calling for a solution to Sudan's Darfur crisis. He travelled to China and Egypt in 2006, when he asked these countries for greater pressure on the Sudanese government to force them to find some way out of the refugee problem.

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