U.S. actress Angelina Jolie visits refugees in Iraq

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GENEVA: American actress Angelina Jolie has visited Iraq to meet with refugees and U.S. troops in the country, the U.N. refugee agency said Tuesday.

Jolie, who is a goodwill ambassador for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, made the visit during a two-day trip to the region, the agency said in a statement.

It said Jolie met with displaced Iraqis in neighboring Syria on Monday before crossing into Iraq for a few hours Tuesday to see first-hand the plight of hundreds of thousands of families uprooted by the ongoing conflict.

I have come to Syria and Iraq to help draw attention to this humanitarian crisis and to urge governments to increase their support for UNHCR and its partners, Jolie was quoted as saying by the Geneva-based agency.

UNHCR estimates that more than 4.2 million Iraqis have left their homes _ most of them since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion to topple Saddam Hussein. Of these, about two million have fled to neighboring countries including Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon.

Thousands of Iraqis continue to stream into Syria every day, placing a heavy strain on the country s housing, health care and education sectors, according to UNHCR.

Last month, the agency launched an appealed together with UNICEF for almost US$130 million (€95 million) to help provide an education to displaced Iraqi children across the Middle East. The U.S. announced Tuesday that it would contribute US$30 million (€22 million) to the appeal.

Jolie, 32, traveled to the al-Waleed refugee camp on the Iraqi side of the border and spoke to some of the 1,200 Iraqis living there before visiting a contingent of U.S. troops in the area, UNCHR said.

The trip had been organized weeks in advance at Jolie s request, UNHCR spokeswoman Astrid Van Genderen Stort said.

Jolie has worked with UNHCR since early 2001. In May, a foundation set up by Jolie and fellow actor Brad Pitt donated $1 million (€740,000) to help those affected by the conflict in Sudan s Darfur region and neighboring Chad.

Jolie was not immediately available for comment in Syria. She leaves from there Wednesday.

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