The film actress Angelina Jolie, a goodwill ambassador for the United Nations refugee agency, has celebrated her third Christmas in a row with refugees and agency staff in the field.
After marking the 2003 holiday season in Cairo, Egypt, and 2002 in Kosovo, Ms. Jolie interrupted a private visit to Beirut last week to join staff members from the local office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as well as young refugees at a refugee centre and patients in a cancer hospital.
"Being here for Christmas has been very special," Ms. Jolie said afterwards. "After so many years of conflict, to see Christmas trees next to mosques - everyone in the holiday spirit - is something beautiful and symbolic of reconciliation. It is an example of hope for other areas of the world."
Some 30 staff members gave Ms. Jolie - who has been a goodwill ambassador since August 2001 - a gift at the Christmas Eve celebration in "gratitude for her tireless efforts to spotlight refugee problems around the world." The goodwill ambassador later met refugee children and handed out Christmas gifts.
In Lebanon, UNHCR cares for some 1,800 refugees, mainly from Iraq, Sudan and Somalia. It established a Community Development Centre last year to provide services to refugees, including language training, computer courses, counselling and other activities for refugee women and youngsters.
Lebanon is not a party to the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees or its 1967 Protocol. Nonetheless, since 1963 the country has been a permanent member of UNHCR's Executive Committee, which approves the agency's standards, programmes and budgets.