Singer lined up to head African drive

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BONO, the charismatic lead singer of the Irish rock bank U2, is being lined up by Tony Blair to lead his drive to end the problems facing Africa.

It was revealed last night that the Prime Minister held talks with the singer during a dinner in Dublin at the weekend.

If Bono (real name Paul Hewson) agrees to come on board as a figurehead for the Commission for Africa it would be a major coup for Downing Street.

Influential world figures including the Pope and Nelson Mandela have met with Bono and lent their names to his mission to end poverty in Africa by persuading leading nations to write off the debts owed by some of the poorest nations.

Mr Blair is today due to follow up his meeting with Bono at Downing Street when he holds talks on the problems facing Africa. He will chair the first meeting on the Commission for Africa which he launched to help heal "the scar on the conscience of the world".

The Chancellor, Gordon Brown, and Sir Bob Geldof, the Live Aid founder, will also join the talks, which will see the 14 commissioners set out the themes they will address.

They are expected to look at the economy, building peace, education and health - including the spread of HIV/AIDS.

The commission will report next spring and present its findings to the G8 summit in July 2005.

Announcing the commission in February, Mr Blair said: "I have decided with others to form a Commission for Africa to take a fresh look at Africa’s past, present and future.

"It will be a comprehensive assessment of the situation in Africa and policies towards Africa.

"What has worked, what has not worked and what more can and should be done."

Mr Blair added: "I have said on many occasions that I believe Africa is the scar on the conscience of the world.

"And I think it is right that we continue to treat this as an absolute priority over the coming years."