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George Clooney Presses Obama On Sudan Crisis

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GEORGE CLOONEY OBAMA
George Clooney Leaves White House | AP

UPDATE: As planned, George Clooney and several congressmen have been arrested at a protest at the Sudanese embassy in Washington. Read more here.

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WASHINGTON -- Actor George Clooney's blitz of the U.S. capital to bring attention to the humanitarian crisis in border regions between Sudan and South Sudan arrived at the Oval Office on Thursday, and the actor said he came away from meeting President Barack Obama encouraged that there is high-level interest in doing more to help a region that soon could suffer mass starvation.

Clooney, whose visit to Washington has drawn outsized press coverage at every turn, said he was optimistic that Obama would press Chinese President Hu Jintao to join international efforts to bring peace to the ravaged region when the two meet this month on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit in South Korea.

"The good news for us is we feel like there's a commitment at a high level" to deal with the Sudanese situation, Clooney told reporters after his meeting with the president. He added that he sensed "great interest in working with China."

Clooney, just back from an eight-day trip to the northeastern Africa region, met with Obama for 15 minutes in the president's Oval Office.

The actor held out hope for cooperation from China on Sudan even though Beijing has protected the Syrian regime from censure by the U.N. Security Council. He said energy-hungry China receives about 6 percent of its oil from Sudan, giving it an economic incentive to work to bring peace to the region.

Oil-rich South Sudan and Sudan, the keeper of the pipelines, have been at odds over oil and profits. Exports have stopped, which is applying pressure on oil prices worldwide.

"Suddenly, this affects their economy," Clooney said of China. "This is a moment we can appeal to China."

Clooney said it was imperative for the world to move swiftly to open a humanitarian corridor to those in need.

"When the rainy season starts, it is impossible to get through," Clooney said. "There is a very, very great possibility of a lot of people starving in the next few months."

The A-list celebrity made clear that his role is to shine a light on the situation, not to solve it.

"I don't make policy," Clooney said. "All I really can do is amplify the situation and help to bring a spotlight to it."

The large contingent of reporters that gathered to hear the Oscar-winning actor at the White House was evidence that he was succeeding at that.

Clooney acknowledged it is "a very complicated time in the world" with lots of problems competing for attention.

But he said this was a "crucial moment" to bring attention to the plight of those suffering in Sudan.

Clooney was at the Congress Wednesday to testify about the same issues, and he turned up that night at the head table for the Obamas' state dinner honoring British Prime Minister David Cameron.

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