Copyright 2003

[ April 16th 2003 ]

Hollywood star Angelina Jolie said on Wednesday she was moved by stories of lives shattered by two decades of war in Sri Lanka and called on the international community to back the island's peace process. Jolie, a goodwill ambassador for the U.N.'s refugee body, said she was saddened after listening to a group of 500 war-traumatized orphan girls say they did not want to be mothers when they grew up.

"They wanted to be doctors or teachers...but not one of them wanted to be a mother, that is strange," Jolie told reporters after spending several days touring areas of northern Sri Lanka. Jolie, who won an Academy Award for the 1999 drama "Girl, Interrupted" and had huge box-office success as Lara Croft in "Tomb Raider," also said she would make a donation of at least $10,000 to help rebuild the pediatric ward in a Jaffna hospital. Jaffna peninsula was the central battleground between government troops and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), fighting for a separate state for minority Tamils.

The two sides signed a cease-fire in February 2002 and a series of peace talks since last September have given the island its best chance yet to end the war that has killed 64,000 people, displaced a million more and devastated Sri Lanka's economy. The peace encouraged more than 270,000 displaced people to return to their villages last year, often to homes that had been destroyed. "They really have come back to absolutely nothing, but they seem grateful just to be coming back," said Jolie, who has been a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for more than two years.

The 27-year-old actress has visited war-hit countries in Africa, Latin American and in other parts of Asia, including Cambodia. She fell in love with Cambodia while making "Tomb Raider" and has adopted a Cambodian-born baby boy.

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