Copyright 2004

[ June 16th 2004 ]

Actress and Goodwill Ambassador for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, Angelina Jolie, met with a key U.S. Senator to discuss the crisis in Sudan's Darfur region. Ms. Jolie recently returned from a visit to Chad, where she met at a camp with some of the 160,000 refugees who fled Sudan's violence-wracked western Darfur region. Emerging from a meeting with the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Richard Lugar, Ms. Jolie expressed concern over reports that the Sudanese government has been blocking humanitarian aid to those in need.

"Representing UNHCR, I can say that we are all concerned that if we wait too long to respond to the needs of the people, and we do not get in there to find out what is happening and insist to the Sudanese government that we want to see what it happening there and be allowed in, then we could be too late, and God forbid we have something as serious as genocide on our hands."

Human rights groups say the Sudanese government, with support from Khartoum-backed Arab militia, has been waging a campaign of ethnic cleansing in Darfur. Sudanese officials deny the accusations. For his part, Senator Lugar praised Ms. Jolie for her work on behalf of refugees, saying she brings high profile attention to the issue. "She has been on the firing line, literally, in Chad, working with children, working with refugees." he said.

Meanwhile, in the House of Representatives, the Appropriations Committee approved $95 million in emergency disaster relief and refugee aid to deal with the crisis in Darfur. As many as 30,000 people are believed to have been killed in the Darfur conflict, which erupted in February of last year.

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