Penn in Baghdad for 'Personal Concern'

12/16/2002 at 01:00 PM EST

Sean Penn spoke out in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad on Sunday, calling against an American attack on the country and defending Iraq's innocent people who happen to be caught up in an international crisis, Reuters reports.

The "I Am Sam" star, 42, made his comments at the end of a three-day fact-gathering visit organized by the Institute for Public Accuracy, a research organization based in San Francisco.

"Simply put, if there is a war or continued sanctions against Iraq, the blood of Americans and Iraqis alike will be on our hands," Penn said at a Baghdad news conference.

Penn said he went to Iraq because if war breaks out he wants to understand why. "I think war can be avoided, but obviously it's going to take enormous commitment on the part of the Iraqi government as well as the United States," he told Reuters television in an interview.

"I will certainly do what I can to support that commitment to looking for other options," Penn said. Although he said it would "suit us all" if Iraq fully disclosed any banned weapons it still has, he questioned whether U.S. security concerns justified a war.

Asked if his trip might expose him to charges of lack of patriotism, Penn said, "I'm here for a simple reason, which is because I'm a patriot and an American who has benefited enormously from being an American, and because I had areas of personal concern and conscience that led me to come to Iraq."

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