Nobel laureates Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and author Gabriel Garcia Marquez of Colombia are among the "initiators" of the petition being circulated by Jack Lang, the former French culture minister, reports Paris correspondent Charles Trueheart.
"It reflects the shock and horror that is pervasive in Europe," said author William Styron. "There's a fear that this is endangering the stability of the world." Others behind the international appeal include authors William Styron, Carlos Fuentes and Gunter Grass, actors Gerard Depardieu, Vanessa Redgrave, Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins, conductor Pierre Boulez, diva Jessye Norman, and two other winners of the Nobel Prize, Bishop Jose Ramos Horta of East Timor and physicist Pierre-Gilles de Gennes of France.
The drive to rally support for President Clinton in global cultural circles mirrors the warm welcome for him in the Hamptons last month orchestrated by Steven Spielberg and other Hollywood celebrities.
The first round of signatures released in Paris includes those of intellectuals Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Jacques Derrida and Bernard-Henri Levy; actors Lauren Bacall, Claudia Cardinale, Alain Delon, Sophia Loren, Charlotte Rampling, Liv Ullmann and Art Garfunkel; and film directors Bernardo Bertolucci, Wim Wenders, Robert Altman, John Boorman, Jane Campion, David Puttnam and Constantin Costa-Gavras.
The statement is being faxed to movie stars and other famous people around the world. Vanessa Redgrave said that she was raising money to have the letter printed in newspapers throughout the world.
"A statesman is answerable to public opinion or to the law only for his public acts," the statement said. "All else is solely a matter of his own conscience."
Jack Lang, a Socialist who now heads the French Parliament's foreign affairs committee, has been one of Europe's bluntest critics of independent counsel Kenneth W. Starr. His petition accuses Starr of "arbitrary and unjust procedures" and a "flagrant intrusion upon privacy -- a right regarded as sacred in every civilized society."