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Annan courts celebrity support in L.A. visit

Annan
Annan   
April 22, 1998
Web posted at: 4:02 a.m. EDT (0802 GMT)

LOS ANGELES (CNN) -- A new Hollywood player worked the room at the Westin Bonaventure Hotel Tuesday night, pitching a project and asking celebrities, producers and directors to sign on. Nothing unusual about that, except that the project was the cash-strapped United Nations, and the player was Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Annan spoke to 2,200 members of the Los Angeles World Affairs Council and the Town Hall of Los Angeles. The audience was a colllection of the city's elite, including show business figures. He appealed to the celebrities, producers and directors to help boost the U.N.'s image, and enlisted former basketball star Magic Johnson as a "messenger of peace" at a ceremony earlier in the day.

After the speech, Annan was the guest of honor at a Beverly Hills reception hosted by Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Association of America.

Among those on the guest lists for the day's events were entertainers Steve Allen, Karl Malden, Tony Curtis, Robert Stack, Jacqueline Bisset, James Woods and Michael York, media mogul Rupert Murdoch, TV producer Merv Griffin, and movie producer Jerry Weintraub.

At the ceremony recognizing Johnson, Annan said his L.A. trip was part of an overall effort to reach out beyond governments to businesses, non-governmental organizations, and individuals.

"I'm not here necessarily to see a cause and effect," Annan told reporters. "But if the public ... realizes how the U.N. impacts on their daily lives, what the U.N. and its agencies are doing to make this world a better place, I think they will support us."

Annan expressed hopes that public support would influence anti-U.N. Republicans in Congress. "Not Republicans. I meant politicians," the veteran diplomat quickly added.

"We are being held hostage by the United States over domestic issues in the United States," Annan said. The U.S. owes $1.5 billion in U.N. dues, and it has been primarily Republicans on the Hill who have halted U.S. payments. That has left the organization technically bankrupt, Annan said.

'Considerable frustration' with Middle East progress

Demonstrators
Demonstrators outside the hotel protested China's policy in Tibet   

World issues were also on Annan's agenda. He said he was concerned that the impasse in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians could lead to renewed violence in the region. He said there was "considerable frustration" with the lack of progress.

"There are concerns that if we do not make progress ... desperate people will resort to violence again," Annan added. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat are scheduled to meet separately with U.S. and British officials in London next month.

On a more positive note, Annan said that Iraq is now cooperating with U.N. weapons inspectors, but cautioned that "We are only two months into the agreement, and what we are looking for it long-term cooperation -- cooperation that will allow inspectors to do their work in an unrestricted manner."

 
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