Bono Hails "Gigantic Step" on Third World Debt

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LONDON, Dec 19 (Reuters) - Pop star Bono, a leading figure the campaign for Third World debt relief, on Sunday hailed Britain's decision to write off hundreds of millions of pounds of debt as a "gigantic step" for his campaign.

Bono, lead singer with Ireland's top rock band U2, said an important principle had been established by British Finance Minister Gordon Brown, who is expected to confirm the debt relief on Tuesday. "You can't really over-emphasise what has happened here. It's a gigantic thing for us," Bono told Sky television.

"It (the campaign) is not over, but a principle has been established.... a principle which will affect the lives of potentially a billion people if we get what we want."

Bono, who speaks for the Jubilee 2000 campaign to end Third World debt, said that principle would make clear that "from now it is immoral and untenable to argue that the poorest of the poor should repay loans to wealthy countries ... when they should be feeding or inoculating their children." He said Jubilee 2000 would continue to fight for multilateral cancellation of debt, but applauded Brown and British Prime Minister Tony Blair for taking the lead. Brown, who has made debt relief one of his key personal battles, says debt will be written off by up to 100 percent on a case-by-case basis if countries promise to use the money they save in good causes.

The first four countries should start receiving relief from the burden of interest payments and debt by the end of January, with the government aiming to increase that number to 25 by the end of next year.

Among the conditions are that the savings should not be spent on arms or bureacracy.

Bono said the conditions were strict and would not be ignored by beneficiary countries, but said that both sides of the debt issue had lessons to learn. "The critics that argue on this line often forget that it was irresponsible lending that got us into this position as well as irresponsible borrowing," he said. "The strict conditionality has to go both ways."

Copyright 1999 Reuters. All rights reserved.

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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on December 19, 1999 6:45 AM.

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