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Madonna says she had father's approval on adoption

Written by: Staff

CHICAGO, Oct 26 (Reuters) Pop star Madonna, in her first public comments on adopting a Malawian boy, said she had clear face-to-face permission from the child's father, and worried the ensuing controversy will chill other adoptions from Africa.

The American singer told talk show host Oprah Winfrey that she and her husband, British film director Guy Ritchie, had met the boy's father in court.

''He looked into my eyes and said to me that he was very grateful that I was going to give his son a life, and that had he kept his son with him in the village he would have buried him.'' ''I didn't really need any more ... confirmation ... that I was doing the right thing, and I had his blessing'' the singer said in an interview from London taped on Tuesday and aired on the syndicated show yesterday.

The 1-year-old child was flown from Malawi, a Southern African country that has been hard hit by AIDS, last week to live with Madonna and her family in London after the Malawian government granted a temporary adoption order.

The child's father, Yohane Banda, told Reuters Television at the weekend that he never intended his son to be adopted by Madonna. A senior Malawian government official dismissed the remarks as untrue and said the authorities had explained the process to Banda.

The adoption has caused a storm of controversy.

Malawian child rights groups, accusing the government of breaking the law in granting an interim adoption order to a non-resident, are challenging the process in court.

Final approval for the adoption order is expected in 18 months.

Critics of the adoption say Madonna used her fame and wealth to put the process on a fast track.

Madonna said such arrangements are made when adoptive parents cannot spend the first year and a half in the African country.

FATHER 'TERRORIZED' BY MEDIA The child is now at Madonna's London home with her other two children -- daughter Lourdes, 10, and son Rocco, 6.

Time Magazine on its Web site carried an interview with the father, who is quoted as saying he will not insist that the boy be returned, though he did not understand the child would be gone ''for good'' when he gave his permission to Madonna.

Madonna said she believed the media had manipulated David's father to say he did not know what he had agreed to.

The boy's father is a ''a simple man who comes from a village.'' He has been terrorized by the press which has spun out a ''completely false'' story, the entertainer said.

She said she promised the father that she would bring the boy back for visits. By giving David an education and a better life, she said, he may some day be able to return to his homeland and help people there.

Madonna said she and her husband had planned on adopting two years ago, not knowing where they would adopt. She said it was her charity work in Malawi that brought them to David.

David had spent most of his life in an orphanage with 500 other children although his father was alive. Madonna said she was told his mother and three siblings had died of AIDS and added, ''from my perspective, there was no one looking after David's welfare.'' She said she was discouraged by the negative publicity.

''I'm disappointed because it discourages other people from doing the same thing -- for anybody who had the idea that they, too, would like to open their home and give a life to a child living in an orphanage who might possibly not live past the age of 5,'' she said.

''I feel like the media is doing a great disservice to all the orphans of Africa, period, not just Malawi, by turning it into such a negative thing.'' Madonna said when she met David he had severe pneumonia and could hardly breathe. He was still a little ill, but ''he's much better than he was when we found him,'' she said.

Reuters DKS VP0450

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