Geldof: 'There are individuals who live or die by this'

After all the pressure from Live8, Bono and Bob Geldof now hope their lobbying will bear fruit, reports Paul Vallely
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Indy Politics

The two men were flown to Gleneagles by helicopter just before the final Live8 concert at Murrayfields stadium on Wednesday. They were part of a delegation to meet the summit's chairman, Tony Blair - along with Mike Aaronson of the Make Poverty History coalition and the African Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai.

But in addition to the official meeting, the two rock stars had a private 40-minute session with President George Bush, and a shorter meeting with Chancellor Gerhard Schröder - the leaders of the two nations thought most likely to obstruct a good deal for Africa.

President Bush told the pair that he had watched the Live8 broadcasts. Geldof said: "The most moving moment, [Mr Bush] said, was when Birhan [the Ethiopian girl] came out. It clearly reminded him that when politicians negotiate in the rarefied atmosphere of a place like Gleneagles there are individuals like her who live or die by their decisions."

Bono pressed the President to add further to the increases in aid to Africa which Washington pledged in the run-up to Live8 - but which was short of what was needed to raise the additional $25bn (£13bn) a year recommended by the Commission for Africa. "I told him that it would be a great American initiative to get every African child in school," Bono said afterwards. "No African country that had a credible plan to do that should be denied the aid needed."

Geldof said he was surprised by President Bush's level of engagement with Africa. "His two daughters have been working there and his wife, Laura - who was at the meeting - is about to tour Africa," Geldof said. "And she is particularly concerned with the education of girls."

Girls are far less likely than boys to go to school in Africa, in part because of cultural gender biases, but also for reasons that aid could rectify. "He was clearly struck by the fact that many girls will not go to school merely because they lack separate toilet facilities," said Geldof. "Free school meals have also been shown to create a powerful incentive for parents to send girls to school."

On trade, the pair also secured from the US leader a commitment to fix a date to end subsidies on agricultural exports by rich countries, which make it impossible for many African farmers to scrape a living. President Bush said he would be happy to agree a date to be included in today's closing communiqué, provided European leaders did the same.

Chancellor Schröder told the pair that he would stick to his commitment to increase aid to 0.56 per cent of Germany's national income by 2010. But was unclear as to how he intended to raise the money, appearing lukewarm on Gordon Brown's International Finance Facility and on the French proposal to add a levy to tickets for air travel.