Global Fund eyes $ 8 bln from donors to fight disease

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BERLIN, Sep 25 (Reuters) Anti-poverty campaigners led by rock star Bono today called on the world's rich nations to contribute about billion over the next three years to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.

The Global Fund, a multi-lateral body which channels funding for projects to combat the deadly diseases, holds a three-day conference to boost its coffers in Berlin starting on Wednesday.

The diseases kill 6 million people a year, say campaigners.

About 30 donor nations will participate. France, Germany, Britain and Scandinavian nations are among those set to make the biggest commitments.

Rock star Bono, long involved in the campaign to fight poverty, urged countries to pay up.

''(The Fund) is working; there are measurable results. No more excuses for underfunding this most high-minded public health mechanism,'' Bono said in a statement released by the DATA (Debt AIDS Trade Africa) group.

The Fund claims to have saved 2 million lives since it was created in 2002 through partnerships with governments, the private sector and local communities.

Overall, the Fund needs 12-18 billion dollars for the next three years but some major contributors, including Japan and the United States, will not make pledges in Berlin as the timing does not fit their budgetary cycle, said the Fund's Jon Liden.

''We think we could see initial upfront contributions from the conference worth about billion for three years,'' he said.

In June, leaders of the Group of Eight industrialised nations committed to - billion per year replenishment of the Global Fund by 2010 at a summit hosted by Germany.

Steve Cockburn, of the Stop AIDS Campaign, said donors had to keep their pledge to treble the size of the Fund by 2010.

''Keeping this promise will save lives but breaking them will tarnish the credibility of the world's leaders and undermine the battle against poverty and disease,'' he told Reuters.

''The effects of this will ultimately be felt by millions of people affected by AIDS, TB and malaria across the world.'' Since 2001 the Fund has signed agreements worth .6 billion for 450 grants in 136 countries.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan will attend the conference.

Reuters JK RN1810

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