'Time' turns a pop star into a messiah for the modern world

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The transformation of U2 singer Bono from pop star to messiah was completed yesterday when Time magazine put him on its cover and asked if he could save the world.

Confronting head-on the barrage of cynicism which normally greets pontificating rock stars, the 41-year-old musician has laid out his manifesto for ending the iniquities suffered by Africa.

The socially responsible Dubliner's appearance on the front of the world's most famous news magazine coincides with the launch of a campaign to sensitise an America at war to the intricacies of debt relief.

Bono, who follows Osama bin Laden, Rudolph Giuliani and Kofi Annan on recent Time covers, is shown brandishing a Stars and Stripes while wearing a pair of wrap-around blue shades and biker's jacket.

Below him appears the $350bn debt relief question: "Can Bono save the world?"

Critics of the musician's attempt to occupy the world stage alongside such recent acquaintances as the Pope, Colin Powell and Bill Gates by means of a few impenetrable soundbites will not be disappointed.

The pop millionaire says: "U2 is about the impossible. Politics is about the art of the possible. They are very different and I'm resigned to that now. Music's the thing that stopped me from falling asleep in the comfort of my freedom."

He tells the magazine that his intention is to scare the Midwest, and the rest of America, into helping the developing world by evoking the spectre of 11 September.

"I know how absurd it is to have a rock star talk about the World Health Organisation or debt relief," he says. "We don't argue compassion. We put it in the most crass terms possible; we argue it as a financial and security issue for America.

"There are potentially another 10 Afghanistans in Africa, and it is cheaper... to prevent the fires from happening rather than putting them out."

The rock star says he is using his non-profit lobbying group – Debt, Aid, Trade for Africa (Data) – to spearhead an assault on Western governments and international groups with an agenda advocating economic aid, lower export tariffs and money to fight Aids. In return, Africa's nations will be expected to provide greater democracy, accountability and transparency in government.

"I'm tired of dreaming, Bono says. "I'm into doing."