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Bono sings a 'humanitarian' song

region of Darfur

india Updated: May 05, 2006 18:48 IST

Rock star and activist Bono expressed hope that a peace agreement could be in the offing for the Sudanese region of Darfur.

"We just got news on this very day that there's a potential breakthrough," Bono said Thursday night during a speech to The Economic Club of Grand Rapids. "I ask you to pray for their success."

Decades of tribal clashes over land and water in Darfur erupted into large-scale violence in early 2003, with rebels demanding regional autonomy.

The central government is accused of responding by unleashing militias upon civilians, a charge that Sudan denies.

At least 180,000 people have been killed and more than 2 million have been forced to flee their homes in what the United Nations has called the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Sudanese rebels cautiously welcomed US-backed proposals to salvage a peace agreement for Darfur on Thursday. The international community urged them to finally accept the deal.

Bono, 45, also asked the audience to encourage the federal government to do more to help fight AIDS and poverty in Africa.

Speaking to President George W Bush and members of US Congress on February 2 at the National Prayer Breakfast, the U2 front man challenged the government to donate an additional 1 per cent of the federal budget to the world's poor.

One percent of this year's budget is about $26 billion (euro20.65 billion).

In Grand Rapids, Bono said about 40 per cent of the African population is Muslim.

He warned that if more isn't done to help the continent's poor children now, there is a greater likelihood that they will grow up in violence and affiliate with radical Muslim factions.

"We can save a continent," he said. "We can change the world."

In January, Bono whose real name is Paul Hewson launched a new push in the battle against HIV and AIDS in Africa.

He helped organise last year's Live 8 benefit concerts to pressure world leaders to provide more aid to Africa.

In December, Time magazine selected Bono, Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda Gates, as its "Persons of the Year" for 2005, citing their charitable work and activism aimed at reducing global poverty and improving world health.

About 2,000 people attended the sold-out annual dinner in Grand Rapids, which was open only to club members and their guests.

Tickets cost $150 (euro120) each.

Former US Secretary of State Colin Powell was the keynote speaker at last year's event. Other past speakers include former South African President FWKlerk and former British prime ministers Margaret Thatcher and John Major.

Bono asked an audience of business and civic leaders in Michigan's second-largest city to encourage the federal government to do more to help fight AIDS and poverty in Africa.

First Published: May 05, 2006 18:48 IST