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Bono wins Chirac aid boost pledge

Bono and Chirac share a joke during their 90-minute meeting
Bono and Chirac share a joke during their 90-minute meeting  

PARIS, France -- French President Jacques Chirac has promised U2 singer Bono that France's contribution in aid to poor countries will increase.

The Irish rock star, a staunch advocate of more generous aid and debt forgiveness for developing countries, last month went on a 12-day tour through Africa with U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, dubbed the "odd-couple tour."

"I'm here because he (Chirac) has a passion for Africa and I want to turn that passion into cash," the singer told Reuters before his meeting with the president at the Elysee Palace in Paris on Thursday.

Asked later if he had succeeded, Bono joked: "Well, he gave me 50 francs ($7) for the taxi."

But he added: "France has been generous but in the last years it's gone down. He promised me they (the new French government) would reverse that trend, and I'm very happy about that."

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Chirac's centre-right party won a landslide in parliamentary elections last Sunday, giving the recently re-elected president unlimited policy-making powers.

The French leader found Bono a convincing and eloquent advocate for poor countries and the talk fascinating, presidential spokeswoman Catherine Colonna said.

The U2 frontman said he would check to ensure the promised aid turned up. "My relationship with all politicians is based on the idea that if the money is not forthcoming, I'll be back," the singer said after his 90-minute talk with the French leader.

He said pestering politicians and reminding them of their words was part of his campaign and just as useful as participating in confrontational protests.

"It's much more glamorous being on the barricades with a handkerchief over your nose throwing rocks than it is for me to be standing here in a suit, though it's not my own," the style-conscious singer said. He revealed the khaki tie he was sporting for the occasion was also on loan.

"But it's good to be in the room and in the ear of President Chirac to make our case," he said.

"He (Chirac) is very, very informed and he is very serious about finding a new relationship with Africa and the developing world, particularly in light of the AIDS pandemic."

Bono said he asked Chirac to be "a champion for Africa" at a G8 summit of wealthy nations in Canada on June 26-28.

Bono leaves the Elysee palace after his successful meeting
Bono leaves the Elysee palace after his successful meeting  

He has joined forces with a senior member of the U.S. government to launch a campaign to highlight the need for effective spending on development in Africa.

Bono and Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill in Ghana visited Ghana, South Africa, Uganda and Ethiopia to draw attention to the acute needs of the poverty-stricken region, using one another's position and celebrity to spark interest in a topic that each feels much of the world tries to ignore.

Although they shared a common aim, their appearances were marked, with Bono in sporting standard rock-star chic -- wraparound blue-shaded glasses and casual dress -- and silver-haired O'Neill in the buttoned-down garb of a senior politician and businessman.

"I'm the messy one, I don't have a very tidy room and I eat pizza," Bono joked.

Bono has a long-standing interest in international aid issues, especially involving Africa. O'Neill acknowledged this by calling him a "substantive" individual who can appeal to young people effectively.


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