After Pope, Geldof attacks Italian PM over failing to deliver Africa aid

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Rome, July 6 (ANI): Ahead of this week's G8 summit, Irish singer and activist Bob Geldof has joined the Pope in assailing Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi for not being able to deliver the anti-poverty aid to Africa.

During a hard hitting interview with Berlusconi, Geldof guest-editor of La Stampa, the Turin daily, forced the Italian PM to apologise for failing by a huge margin to meet his commitments on fighting poverty.

"I am sorry, we made a mistake. Our Economy Minister Giulio Tremonti has made a commitment to readjust in line with our undertakings within three years," the Times Online quoted Berlusconi, as saying.

At Gleneagles, the G8 countries vowed to increase aid to Africa by at least 26 billion dollars by 2010, later revised downward to 21.8 billion dollars.

Geldof's ONE campaign group had said that Italy was trailing behind other G8 nations in aid to Africa, putting the whole group's performance at risk.

The antipoverty campaigner labelled Berlusconi "Mr 3 Per Cent", saying that he had delivered only 3 per cent of the aid that Italy pledged at the G8 meeting in 2005.

"How can you lead the G8? Where is your credibility?" asked Geldof, who guest-edited La Stampa, the Turin daily, for a day.

Berlusconi admitted that Italy was "behind with its payments" but said that after Gleneagles he had been out of power for two and a half years, blaming the intervening Government of Romano Prodi and the financial crisis.

When Berlusconi complained that he was being "attacked by the press, the Left and magistrates", Geldof brushed it aside as irrelevant.

Mario Calabresi, the Editor of La Stampa, said that the interview had been "like a boxing match", and at some points he had expected either Berlusconi or Geldof "to get up and walk out".

The interview followed an open letter from Pope Benedict XVI to Berlusconi on Saturday urging the G8 leaders, whose meeting starts on Wednesday, to "defend the poor".

"I appeal to G8 member states to maintain and boost development aid, not in spite of the crisis but precisely because this is one of the main solutions to it," the pontiff said. (ANI)

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