Thu, Sep 30, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Bono to ask Labour for African aid


Rock star Bono was set to address the governing Labour Party's annual conference yesterday, urging further action to tackle the scourge of AIDS and poverty in Africa, officials said.

The front man of the Irish band U2 is well-known as an activist for the world's poor and campaigns for fair trade, debt relief and increased assistance for developing countries.

DATA, the charity founded by Bono, said he would talk about Britain's opportunity to focus attention on Africa's troubles when it holds the presidency of the EU and hosts the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations next year.

"Bono is speaking to the Labour conference because next year could be a historic breakthrough for the world's poor," said Jamie Drummond, chief executive of DATA, which stands for debt, AIDS, trade, Africa.

"Britain is hosting the G8 and presiding over the EU and [Prime Minister] Tony Blair and [Treasury chief] Gordon Brown are putting together a Marshall Plan for Africa, including historic progress on debt cancellation, the emergency of AIDS and fair trade rules," said Drummond, referring to the program that helped France and other European nations recover from World War II.

"That is what he is going to talk about," he added.

The five-day Labour conference is intended as a springboard for elections widely expected in May 2005. Blair addressed the conference on Tuesday, defending the Iraq war, which has split the Labour party, and urging delegates to campaign hard for re-election.

Blair said following US presidential elections in November, he would make the revival of the Middle East peace process a "personal priority."

The prime minister has earlier pledged to make tackling Africa's woes the focal point of Britain's presidency of the G8 and the EU next year and has established a commission to examine new ways to ease the crisis on the continent.

On the opening day of the conference in Brighton, southern England, Brown said Britain would provide more debt relief for the world's poorest countries and challenge other rich governments to do the same.

Brown said it was vital to remove damaging trade barriers and invest in poor countries so they had the capacity to trade. He said many such countries were crippled by repaying their debt.

The Treasury said Britain would spend US$180 million per year until 2015 on the initiative.

Bono has met Blair on several occasions. The singer gave him a guitar in May of last year, after attending a meeting the prime minister held on AIDS in Africa.

In March 2002, US President George W. Bush credited Bono with inspiring his proposal to boost US aid to African nations.

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