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Copyright 2004

[ July 5th 2004 ]

Hollywood star Angelina Jolie has persuaded Cambodian ministers to cancel a planned hydroelectricity project in a huge forest near her home, Prime Minister Hun Sen said after meeting her. The Oscar-winning actress, who has an adopted Cambodian son Maddox and owns a residence in the Samlot district of northwestern Battambang province, often visits the war-torn kingdom and has been campaigning on environmental issues. Hun Sen told reporters that Jolie, who met him along with a team of ministers and diplomats, had asked him about conflicting plans to build hydroelectricity plants as well as to protect Samlot's forests.

"I discussed this with the minister of environment and minister of mines and energy and we have decided not to continue with plans for hydroelectricity but to keep the Samlot area for her to work on environmental protection," he said. "We agreed to give up electricity investment plans, even though we have a shortage, and will instead plan for the protection of trees and wildlife, which is better," he added.

Cambodia has suffered rampant deforestation over the past few decades. Hun Sen has railed against illegal logging in the kingdom in recent months but activists claim the practice is continuing. It was not immediately clear when the project had been slated for nor how much it was worth. Jolie is here with her son to visit their home and various projects she is involved with. She did not mention the reprieve to reporters after the meeting but said forest protection was discussed.

"We discussed our common interest in protecting the forests of Cambodia but also understanding that you have to find jobs for people and get the communities up and working," she said. "We spoke a lot about the area Samlot... and he was interested in the projects that we're working on and how we're all working together on everything from wildlife to demining to different conservation efforts," she added.

Jolie, who is leaving Cambodia Wednesday but will return in October, said the premier also raised the issue of awarding her Cambodian citizenship. "I would be thrilled and very, very honoured," she said. The 28-year-old actress has said she fell in love with Cambodia when shooting the 2001 film "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider" at the famed Angkor Wat temple complex.

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