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O'Neill Sees Lifelong Friend in Rocker Bono

Posted on Tuesday, October 08 @ 09:09:05 CEST by Macphisto

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz., (Reuters) - One wears hip sunglasses and plays huge gigs like the Super Bowl, while the other wears boring gray suits and speaks to rotary clubs in places like Oklahoma City -- two men not likely to swap Christmas cards.

But after touring poor villages together in Africa last May, U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill and Irish rock star Bono are becoming as close as school chums, chatting on the phone as if they had met at summer camp in the Catskills.

"I think this may be a lifelong friendship," O'Neill said on Monday, recounting the ebullient rocker's persistent efforts to get him to discuss aid to Africa, ultimately launching the most unlikely pairing since Richard Nixon and Elvis.

Bono -- a key figure in Britain's Band-Aid recording "Do they know it's Christmas?" which raised millions to help feed poor Africans in the 1980s -- surprised O'Neill with his passion, earning him an initial audience of over an hour, far more than the 15 minutes the secretary had grudgingly planned to give.

From there the two would launch a 10-day tour of Ghana, South Africa , Ethiopia and Uganda, where Bono pushed for more aid and debt forgiveness for poor nations while O'Neill insisted on returns on U.S. investments and urged bootstrap entrepreneurship south of the Sahara.

"I am convinced that we can get results for our aid money, that it's time to stop accepting the idea that we just throw it over the wall and whatever happens, happens," O'Neill said during remarks to local business leaders.

O'Neill found he had quite a lot in common with Bono, whom he described as "born-again," and said the rocker was coming around to his views on smart investment in Africa during a 15-minute phone call the two had just last week.

"I think we both felt really good about what we did together, what we saw together" in Africa, O'Neill said.

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