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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 May, 2003, 10:39 GMT 11:39 UK
Blair pressed over Aids battle
Millions of people in Africa face poverty
Tony Blair has been urged by rock stars Bob Geldof and Bono to work to unite world leaders in the fight against Aids.

At a "breakfast for Africa" on Thursday, the campaigners told the prime minister that international disagreements over Iraq should take a backseat in favour of the battle against the epidemic.

U2 singer Bono said Mr Blair could take a central role in negotiating an agreement on tackling Aids at next month's G8 summit in France.

He said: "The war against terrorism is bound up against the war on poverty.

"I did not say that, (US Secretary of State) Colin Powell said that, that the greatest weapon of mass destruction is the Aids virus and when a military man says something like that you know you have to start paying attention."

The singer, speaking after talks lasting an hour in Downing Street, said world leaders should "push a little away" from the rows over the war in Iraq to work together over Aids.

The meeting was attended by the rock stars, Mr Blair, new international development secretary Baroness Amos and representatives of non-governmental organisations and academics.

Bono said there was too much cynicism about how effective G8 meetings - which bring together leaders of the UK, the United States, Canada, France, Italy, Germany, Japan and Russia - could be.

Bono met President Bush in January
He said the G8 nations had responded to the Drop the Debt campaign which had led to improvements in living standards for many in Africa.

Geldof, who organised the world's biggest charity concert, Live Aid, in 1985, and Bono have regularly lobbied world leaders over the problems facing the developing world.

Earlier this year, Bono met US President George Bush and praised his decision to spend more on Aids prevention in Africa and the Caribbean.

The US leader agreed to increase the country's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief budget by $10 billion (6.28bn) to $15 billion (9.43bn) over the next five years.

And at the time Bono urged Europe to match the US contribution.

In his 2001 party conference speech, Mr Blair said an international "Partnership for Africa" was needed to address the continent's poverty and political turmoil, which he described as "a scar on the conscience of the world".

MILLENNIUM DEVELOPMENT GOALS
Eradicate extreme poverty
Universal primary education
Promote gender equality
Cut child mortality by two thirds
Reduce maternal mortality by three quarters
Combat Aids/HIV
World leaders at this year's G8 summit in France next month are expected to be pressed to cancel Africa's debts.

Meanwhile Chancellor Gordon Brown will be seeking backing for his initiative to increase aid for the world's poorest countries by $50bn a year - doubling the global aid budget - by issuing bonds.

In his Budget last month, the chancellor said "a new and urgent effort" was needed "to combat the injustice and instability caused by world poverty".

He added: "Just as it is right for Britain and America to lead action in Iraq, it is now right for Britain and America to lead action against the hopelessness and poverty of the poorest countries.

Action

"It is now time for the world's richest countries, in word and in deed, to fulfil their obligations to the world's poorest."

Geldof arranged Live Aid concert in 1985
Mr Brown wants to see more urgent action taken to meet the UN's Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The MDGs, agreed in a United Nations declaration in September 2000, call for a halving of the number of people living on less than $1 a day.

The meeting between Mr Blair, Geldof and Bono came as the prime minister considers whether to send troops to join a peacekeeping force in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

A new UN force is being planned for the country after an outbreak of atrocities sparked fears of a genocide like that in neighbouring Rwanda in 1994.

The situation in Zimbabwe was also discussed at the meeting, with Geldof saying Robert Mugabe was a "tyrant" who had embarked on a campaign of state famine and sought to "wipe out the state opposition".


SEE ALSO:
Blair pressed over Africa poverty
13 May 02  |  Politics


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