Geldof 'diplomacy' eclipses UK promise of troops for Africa

Tony Blair's launch of an initiative for British humanitarian intervention in Africa yesterday was overshadowed by his outspoken companion, Bob Geldof, who accused an EU aid official of "talking out of his arse".

Mr Blair had announced that1,500 British soldiers would be committed to a 10,000-strong European force of "rapidly deployable" battle groups.

The force would be established by 2006, with a mission to "hold the fort" in African conflicts before United Nations or African Union peace-keepers can be deployed. Mr Blair also pledged to train 20,000 African troops in logistics and planning, and warned that war was a major factor holding back the continent's development.

Downing Street said the force would be set up alongside the planned European Rapid Reaction Force. The battle-groups would be deployable for up to three months to intervene in battle zones before African troops can take over long-term peace-keeping work.

Geldof overshadowed the announcement. He was responding in characteristic fashion to claims by Poul Nielson, the EU's development and humanitarian aid commissioner, that British-backed debt-relief plans would force future generations to pay for the glory for today's politicians. Geldof, a co-founder of Live Aid, has campaigned for debt relief for years.

The pop star and anti-poverty campaigner is in Ethiopia with the Prime Minister as one of 17 members of the British-sponsored Commission for Africa.

He was incensed to hear comments by Mr Neilson in Brussels, who argued that the International Finance Facility (IFF) scheme smacked of "innovative Enron accounting" in a reference to the accounting malpractices that led to the collapse of the American energy trade giant.

The IFF, which is backed by Gordon Brown, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, would double aid to $100bn (£56bn) a year by issuing bonds in the capital markets using donor countries' long-term funding commitments as collateral. Mr Nielson said: "To impose on our children in the donor countries the burden of actually paying what we now take the glory for doing, that I don't like."

Geldof responded: "He's talking through his arse, quite frankly. He shouldn't have his job if he doesn't want to help. It's rich of the EU aid commissioner. He should look to his own books. They're wholly woeful in what they do," he said. "The debt relief issue is economic sophistry if that's what he's suggesting. I think the IFF is elegant, timely, simple, necessary."

Geldof's positionwas backed by his conference host, Meles Zenawi, the Ethiopian Prime Minister, who supported the IFF, saying he didn't think of it as an "accounting gimmick".

Mr Blair also backed the scheme, calling for those who opposed the IFF to enter into informed debate about its mechanics.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
News
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ramsay Bolton in Game of Thrones
tvSeries 5, Episode 3 review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence