Actor Sean Penn visited a Baghdad children's hospital Friday, saying he came to Iraq for a better understanding of the crisis with the United States.

Penn said only that he was "very glad I'm here" when he arrived at the Al-Mansour Children's Hospital. He refused to talk further with reporters or allow them to join his tour of the hospital, saying he needed privacy with the sick children.

In a statement issued here and in Washington. D.C., Penn said that "as a father, an actor, a filmmaker and a patriot" his visit to Iraq "is for me a natural extension of my obligation ... to find my own voice on matters of conscience."

Penn said he was happy that he had a chance "to pursue a deeper understanding of the conflict" and hoped that "all Americans will embrace information available to them outside conventional channel."

Penn's three-day visit to Iraq was organized by the Institute for Public Accuracy, which has offices in Washington and San Francisco.