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Canada earns G-8 praise from rockers

Posted on Sunday, July 22 @ 11:07:01 CEST by Macphisto

By BRUCE CHEADLE-- The Canadian Press

GENOA, Italy (CP) -- Prime Minister Jean Chretien may not know their music, but he likes them singing Canada's praise.

Chretien met with rock star social activists Bono and Sir Bob Geldof on Saturday and received an earful of welcome accolades.

Bono, the lead singer of U2, and Geldof of Boom Town Rats fame, told the prime minister next year's G-8 summit in Canada will be a memorable and substantive event.

The two are fronting an international lobby to relieve the debts of developing countries, and they requested meetings this weekend with both Chretien and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

"I promise you this: your summit in Canada will be the most memorable summit ever," Bono told Chretien during a private half-hour meeting, said a senior Canadian official who was in the room.

"History will be made on several problems, especially AIDS."

Chretien was later asked by reporters if he knew any of Bono's or Geldof's songs.

"You know, I'm not a good singer," Chretien replied.

Earlier Saturday, Chretien had an hour-long bilateral meeting with Blair and their talks focused on relieving the crushing poverty in Africa.

Chretien told Blair that Africa will be the focus of next year's G-8 summit in Canada.

It's a theme that appears to have a receptive audience at the current meetings, which conclude Sunday.

Canada has been stressing issues such as debt relief, AIDs and education funding and assisting the poorest countries to gain information technologies.

It is those types of programs, and their emphasis next year at the Canadian summit, that appeared to impress Bono and Geldof.

"You are the most radical country," Geldof told Chretien, said the official. "You have set the agenda. Something very substantive will be done."

In a very brief interview outside the meeting, which was held on the cruise ship European Vision where Chretien is staying, Bono and Geldof reiterated their praise for Canada's efforts.

"Canada's G-7 will bring back a lot of confidence that's been lost in these meetings," said Bono.

Chretien was happy to get the endorsement.

Last autumn, Finance Minister Paul Martin had a high-profile and laudatory meeting with Bono at an international finance ministers' meeting in Prague.

Martin, the heir apparent to the Liberal leadership should Chretien retire, got a boost to his cool quotient from his encounter with the U2 singer.

Asked if Chretien was playing domestic politics with Martin by meeting with rock stars himself, his press secretary quipped back: "It has nothing to do with leadership. Bono has said he's going to focus on poverty in a non-partisan fashion."

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