Steven Spielberg quits as adviser to Olympics over Darfur

Tue Feb 12, 2008 5:55pm EST
 
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By Bob Tourtellotte and Paul Eckert

LOS ANGELES/WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Oscar-winning film director Steven Spielberg withdrew on Tuesday as an artistic adviser to the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing over China's policy on the conflict in Sudan's Darfur region.

"I find that my conscience will not allow me to continue business as usual," Spielberg said in a statement issued on a day when Nobel Peace laureates sent a letter to China's president urging a change in policies toward its ally Sudan.

"At this point, my time and energy must be spent not on Olympic ceremonies, but on doing all I can to help bring an end to the unspeakable crimes against humanity that continue to be committed in Darfur," he added.

China is a leading oil customer and supplier of weapons to Sudan and is accused by critics of providing diplomatic cover for Khartoum as it stonewalls international efforts to send peacekeepers into Darfur.

In April, Spielberg wrote a letter to Chinese President Hu Jintao adding his voice to the chorus of people who have protested China's involvement with the Sudanese government over the crisis in Darfur. At that time, Spielberg had asked to meet with Hu, but the president failed to respond.

In his statement on Tuesday, Spielberg said Sudan's government shouldered the bulk of responsibility for "these ongoing crimes" in Darfur but said China "should be doing more to end the continuing human suffering there."

Earlier on Tuesday, nine Nobel Peace Prize laureates -- including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Elie Wiesel and Jody Williams -- sent a letter to Hu urging China to uphold Olympic ideals by pressing Sudan to stop atrocities in Darfur.

"As the primary economic, military and political partner of the Government of Sudan, and as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, China has both the opportunity and the responsibility to contribute to a just peace in Darfur," said the letter.   Continued...

 
<p>Director Steven Spielberg and wife, actress Kate Capshaw (C), are seated in the audience at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, California January 31, 2008. REUTERS/Jason Reed</p>