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NZ "Three Kings" Star - Iraq Sanctions Ineffective

Iraq Sanctions Medical Alert Group (ISMAG)

Cliff Curtis, the New Zealand star of the movie "Three Kings" has today publically stated that the sanctions against Iraq are "ineffective" and "hurting the wrong people".

"Three Kings", curently playing in New Zealand, also stars George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg and Ice Cube. It is set in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War, when a group of soldiers travel into Iraq, initially to steal some gold, but become involved with an uprising against Saddam Hussein. "Three Kings" director David Russell said the characters "suddenly find a situation that completely confronts their humanity and demands they re-think what they're doing and who they are".

"Three Kings" has been a critical and popular success, and has attracted comment for its uncompromising portrayal of US policy towards Iraq. In the movie, Cliff Curtis plays an Iraqi resistance leader. His other roles include recent Hollywood films "The Insider" and "Six Days and Seven Nights", as well as NZ films "Once Were Warriors", and "The Chosen", for which he was named NZ Actor of the Year.

During filming, Curtis said that he felt empathy with a number of the Iraqi refugees, many of whom played extras in the movie. His language and cultural coach, an Iraqi documentary-maker, discussed with him the "statistics" on the impact of the sanctions, especially on children. Curtis, while admitting the sanctions were a "complex" situation and that this was his "subjective opinion", said that he agreed that it was "very clear that the sanctions are ineffective" and that they are "affecting the wrong people".

Yesterday the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator, Hans von Sponeck, resigned in protest at the sanctions. In NZ, documentation as to the humanitarian impacts is collected, analysed and publicised by the Iraq Sanctions Medical Alert Group (ISMAG), a group of Wellington-based health professionals and lawyers. Cliff said that he "supported" the work of ISMAG in bringing these reports to public attention.

An ISMAG spokesman, Dr. Marten Hutt, said that "Cliff Curtis' statement is the latest in a long line of statements from diplomats, soldiers, politicians and journalists - from the Pope to Douglas Hurd - who have recently seriously questioned the nature of policy towards Iraq.

"His statement is important in that it strengthens the positions of Maori, such as the prominent health academic Irihapeti Ramsden, an ISMAG patron, who are prepared to stand up and be counted on this issue. Maori take a holistic view of health and know the impact of enforced economic collapse from their own history. We look to the new government to reconsider their policy position on sanctions".

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