( AP )- Militants in Nigeria's restive oil region on Saturday invited actor and peace activist George Clooney to visit the area and asked for U.N. intervention in their conflict.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki -moon designated Clooney as a U.N. "messenger of peace" Friday to promote the world body's activities, especially in its far-flung peacekeeping missions. The 46-year-old actor has been campaigning for an end to the 4 1/2-year war in Darfur and for humanitarian aid for the millions caught up in the conflict.
Nigeria's Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta congratulated Clooney on his appointment and invited him to visit their impoverished region, which has been wracked by two years of fighting, bombings and kidnapping of foreign workers.
"Mr. Clooney, MEND extends an invitation to you to see things for yourself and is willing to work with you and other credible peace makers of international repute to stop Nigeria from plunging into the abyss of war," the group said in a statement e-mailed to reporters.
It said the unrest in the region was building up to a crisis that would dwarf Darfur's .
Clooney was not immediately available for comment.
The group asked for the United Nations to take a role - which it did not specify - in the conflict.
"We suggest that the U.N. should take a proactive step to nip the Niger Delta unrest in the bud before it is too late. Your role as a Messenger of Peace makes it imperative to consider the Niger Delta as a potential time bomb waiting to explode for which urgent steps must be taken."
The call for foreign intervention was unusual, as the militant group has so far used Africa's biggest oil industry as a leverage point to pressure Nigeria's government to meet its demands.
Those include more oil revenue for the region, and the release from prison of some of the group's top leaders. Attacks since early 2006 have cut Nigeria's oil production by about one quarter, helping send oil prices to historic highs.
Nearly 200 foreign workers have been kidnapped in the region in the past two years; they normally are released unharmed after a ransom is paid.
The militants have offered a unilateral truce if one of their leaders is released from prison in Angola, where he is being held on arms-smuggling charges. The group said Saturday the man was sick and they asked for an international envoy to visit him in prison.
While many U.N. agencies have goodwill ambassadors to promote activities ranging from helping children and refugees to promoting human rights, "messengers of peace" are selected by the secretary-general to promote the broader work of the United Nations.
Clooney will receive his designation at U.N. headquarters Jan. 31.