Celebrities mark world peace day at United Nations

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UNITED NATIONS, Sep 22 (Reuters) Conductor Daniel Barenboim, Brazilian author Paulo Coelho, Japanese-American violinist Midori Goto and Olympic equestrian Princess Haya of Jordan were named UN messengers of peace.

They join actor Michael Douglas, conservationist Jane Goodall, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and author Elie Wiesel as special messengers of peace for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Ban, in making the announcement, also dropped several celebrities from the contingent appointed by his predecessor, Kofi Annan, without offering a reason.

They include American boxing champion Muhammad Ali and jazz musician Wynton Marsalis, Indian tennis ace Vijay Amritraj, Algerian-born French singer Enrico Macias and Italian author and humanitarian Anna Cataldi, who was just appointed a goodwill ambassador for the World Health Organization.

UN agencies, beginning with UNICEF, the UN Children's Fund, have named numerous prominent figures as goodwill envoys. In 1998, Annan began the practice of appointing celebrities reporting to his office.

Ban paid tribute to Italian opera star Luciano Pavarotti, who was a messenger of peace for nearly a decade before his death on September 6, and said, his ''heart was even bigger than his voice.'' With Douglas, Goodall, Wiesel and Haya, daughter of the late Jordanian King Hussein and now first lady of Dubai, by his side, Ban honored the International Day of Peace, by calling for a global 24-hour cease-fire as a ''respite from the fear and insecurity that plague so man places.'' ''On this International Day, let us promise to make peace not just our priority but our passion,'' Ban said as he rang a peace bell given to the United Nations by Japan three times.

''In countless communities across the world, peace remains an elusive goal,'' he said. ''From the displaced person camps of Chad and Darfur to the byways of Baghdad, the quest for peace is strewn with setbacks and suffering.'' The peace bell ceremony is conducted each year to mark a new session of the UN General Assembly.

REUTERS SKB RAI0900

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