5.13.04 - Canadian Press
Denies election link
OTTAWA -- Prime Minister Paul Martin got some priceless pre-election publicity Wednesday as rock star Bono hailed him for increasing AIDS funding to Africa.
The U2 frontman, sitting casually in Martin's office with his legs crossed and wearing his trademark dark wraparound sunglasses, said he's not in Ottawa to campaign for the prime minister.
"I'm not here to elect Paul Martin or the Liberal party,'' he said. "I'm here to elect our issue -- the AIDS emergency. . . . I'm here to elect that to office, that's really it.''
But some of his other comments could have been scripted by a Liberal speechwriter:
"We've come to say thank you . . . We have to compliment the prime minister and his team. It's not just the easy money before an election. . . there's some cleverness going into this money.''
Increased Canadian funding for AIDS -- $100 million announced last week, and Wednesday's doubling of the Canadian contribution to the Global Fund to Fight HIV/AIDS, to $70 million -- will be spent on technical assistance and cheaper AIDS drugs, Bono said.
Bono and Martin first met several years ago when both adopted Third World debt relief as personal causes in the late 1990s. The Irish singer also appeared at the November convention when Martin was chosen Liberal leader.
The prime minister, wearing an AIDS ribbon on his lapel, credited Bono's role in raising AIDS awareness around the world.
"His capacity to awaken the world is unique,'' Martin said. "There's no doubt about the tremendous contribution that Bono has made. This is a unique style of leadership which he has taken around the world.''
Bono was diplomatic when asked about Canada's failure to reach its long-stated international target of 0.7 per cent of GDP contributed to foreign aid. He credited Lester B. Pearson for lobbying other countries to work toward that target in the 1960s, but struggled to remember the name of the late Liberal prime minister.
"It was a great Canadian -- another prime minister -- Lester, I think his name was. Lester Pearson, who put forward the idea of 0.7 per cent as the right contribution of national income for the world's poor.
"That's less than one per cent. I think that's where we're going to have to go finally, to deal with the AIDS emergency.''
Martin was evasive when asked whether Canada could reach that target, which is roughly triple the current contribution to international aid. He said he was committed to targetted funding increases.
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