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Actor Michael Douglas Lends Star Power to Back State Department

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Nov. 3 (Bloomberg) -- Just in case Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s star power isn’t enough to save her department’s budget, how about a little help from Hollywood actor and producer Michael Douglas?

State Department officials trotted Douglas around their corridors today for television interviews and an informal briefing with reporters. He backed the Obama administration’s drive to cut the number of nuclear weapons. It’s a cause he’s championed since producing and starring in the 1979 film “The China Syndrome” about the dangers of nuclear power generation.

Douglas also took the occasion to promote diplomacy -- and the funding that pays for it. Republicans in Congress are pressing for cuts in the State Department’s budget.

“Congress is way out of line,” Douglas told reporters. Diplomacy “takes a long time, it’s quiet, but it’s a lot cheaper than a war.”

The appeal from Douglas backs calls by Clinton in congressional hearings and public statements to preserve funding for the State Department’s diplomacy and foreign aid.

President Barack Obama has asked Congress for a 1 percent increase in funding for the State Department and its global programs to $47 billion for the year that started Oct. 1, not including $8.7 billion for Iraq after U.S. troops exit this year. The U.S. spent an average of $11.6 billion a month for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq during the 10 months ended July 30.

Nuclear Treaty

Congressional Republicans also are fighting Obama’s push for further cuts in nuclear weapons after he won ratification last year of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. The opposition makes further limits on nuclear materials an unlikely prospect before next year’s presidential election.

Douglas was shown around the State Department by Deputy Secretary of State Thomas Nides and Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has no public appointments this week due to the death of her mother.

Douglas, a board member of the San Francisco-based Ploughshares Fund group that campaigns for the elimination of nuclear weapons, said the specter of Iran gaining atomic arms and Pakistan losing control of its arsenal amid regional turmoil are key arguments for reducing the global stockpile.

“We were all hopeful and optimistic with the Start treaty being ratified,” he said. “Things have bogged down a little bit.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Viola Gienger in Washington at vgienger@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at Msilva34@bloomberg.net.

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